Super Bowl 50

On Sunday, Feb. 7, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos squared off in Super Bowl 50, with Denver pulling off a huge 24-10 upset in a game that was one for the record books.

Jake Matise, Columnist

The National Football League (NFL) hosted the biggest game of the year on Sunday, Feb. 7. The 50th Super Bowl, held in brand-new Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, featured the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. Super Bowl 50 was anticipated to be one to remember, and it certainly delivered on that promise.

Super Bowl 50 was big in many ways, and it started with the pre-game ceremony. One by one, the Most Valuable Players (MVPs) of past Super Bowls made appearances on the field in order, including legends such as Joe Montana and Denver’s own John Elway, and current Denver quarterback Peyton Manning was recognized for his Super Bowl XLI MVP award with the Indianapolis Colts back in 2007. After the National Anthem, performed by Lady Gaga, the players got ready for kickoff.

Denver wasted no time getting the ball down the field on their opening drive, and were able to score a field goal and give themselves the first lead of the game. The Panthers failed to convert one first down opportunity and were forced to punt after just three plays. Carolina’s defense was able to prevent the Broncos from getting a first down, and Carolina got the ball back at their own 15 yard line. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked by Broncos linebacker Von Miller, and to the surprise of many, Newton fumbled the ball and Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson recovered it in the endzone for a touchdown. Denver now had an early 10-0 lead, and sent a message to Carolina that they needed to step up their game if they didn’t want to get blown out.

The Panthers were able to do just that, with running back Jonathan Stewart getting a 1-yard touchdown carry to narrow the gap. Carolina now only trailed by three points, and had gotten back in the game. During the drive, however, an altercation broke out between Panthers wide receiver Corey Brown and Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, and was penalized again for an illegal facemask tackle that set up 1st and goal at the 1-yard line for the Panthers. Talib later admitted that he committed the last penalty on purpose, because the Panthers wouldn’t gain too many yards from it, since they were already close to scoring.

The Broncos were able to kick another field goal to open the scoring in the second quarter, and the Panthers once again needed to answer back with a score of their own. Carolina was piecing together a nice drive, up until fullback Mike Tolbert fumbled, and the Broncos’ Danny Trevathan recovered the fumble. Fortunately, no harm was caused as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was intercepted by Carolina’s Kony Ealy just three plays later. Both teams headed into the locker room for halftime with the Broncos ahead 13-7.

This year’s halftime show was headlined by Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars. Although all three have different styles of music, the fans seemed to enjoy their collaboration and the show was well-received. All three artists performed for about 30 minutes, and after that it was time for both teams to retake the field.

Carolina started the second half on offense and began with a strong drive down the field. Unfortunately for the Panthers, kicker Graham Gano missed a 44-yard field goal that would have made it a one-possession game. Denver put a drive of their own together and kicker Brandon McManus made another field goal, making the score 16-7. Cam Newton’s pass was intercepted by Broncos safety T.J. Ward, effectively ending what was developing into a productive drive. The third quarter came to a close with the same 16-7 score, and Carolina needed to make something happen fast.

Carolina did just that. Peyton Manning was sacked by Kony Ealy, and Manning fumbled the ball. Ealy then recovered it for Carolina, and this seemed to be just the momentum swing they needed. The Panthers weren’t able to get a touchdown off of the turnover, but Graham Gano was able to make a 39-yard field goal, decreasing the deficit to 16-10. Neither team was able to get anything done on offense for three straight possessions, and the Panthers were running out of time. Cam Newton fumbled again after being sacked once more by Miller, and strangely didn’t attempt to go for the loose ball. Ward recovered the fumble, and that one play put the Broncos in the driver’s seat. Broncos running back C.J. Anderson scored a 2-yard rushing touchdown, and Peyton Manning completed a two-point conversion attempt pass to give his team a secure 24-10 lead.

The Broncos stopped Carolina once more on defense, and then ran out the clock to declare them Super Bowl 50 champions. It was a joyous occasion for the team, but a bittersweet moment for Peyton Manning, who had hinted that Super Bowl 50 would be his last game. Miller was named Super Bowl MVP for his key sacks and forced fumbles that led to two Broncos touchdowns.

On the other side, the Panthers were completely stunned by the loss, as they were the heavy favorites to win it all. Panthers cornerback Josh Norman was in tears on the sidelines, and Cam Newton was obviously frustrated with his three turnovers and lack of blocking, as well as multiple dropped passes by his receivers. Newton hastily answered questions during the postgame press conference before walking out.

Overall, Super Bowl 50 was a memorable one indeed, as well as a reminder that a great defense can still shut down a great offense, which was exactly what the Broncos did. I expected Peyton Manning to be more of a factor on offense though, instead of only 123 yards and two turnovers. It was extremely surprising to see Cam Newton struggle like he did, as he was just a few weeks removed from torching a strong Arizona Cardinals defense. Surprises are what big games like this is all about, and Super Bowl 50 was no different.