They say defense wins championships. They are absolutely right.
I was wrong when I wrote last week that this game would be a defining moment in the legacy of two quarterbacks. The only individuals who will want to be defined by their performance in this game are Von Miller and the Denver defense.
In one of the most unforgettable defensive performances in the history of the Super Bowl, Denver held Carolina’s seemingly unstoppable offense to a mere 10 points. Even in their sole loss during the regular season Carolina put up 13 points. And in the other 15 wins, their lowest score was 20. Denver’s defense wasn’t stifling. It wasn’t aggressive. It was utterly dominant. If you had just tuned in for fun, you may have caught yourself asking, “how did these Panthers make it to the Super Bowl?” Denver’s defense reduced Cam Newton and the Carolina offense to a mere shadow of their former selves. They came out hard, and they forced turnovers throughout the game.
After Manning’s offense put up three points on the opening drive, the defense came out swinging and never took the gloves off. They even created the first touchdown of the game when they stripped Cam Newton of the ball near the goal line in the first quarter. But their dominance lasted far beyond the first quarter. Never once relenting, Denver forced three turnovers from Carolina, and Von Miller took home the MVP award for his two forced fumbles, and 2.5 sacks.
Now, to be fair to Carolina, their defense showed up ready to play too. They held Denver to 17 points (excluding the seven points scored by Denver’s D), and showed no signs of abetting throughout the entire game. They held Manning to 13/23 with 141 yds, 0TD and 1INT. Denver’s offense had an astonishing total of 13 three-and-outs. Not a shabby performance for Carolina’s D by a long shot. It is especially worth noting that on Denver’s final TD, they started the drive in the redzone after Carolina’s third and final turnover.
But at the end of the day, Denver came out on top. Peyton Manning, despite turning in what is surely one of the worst Super Bowl-winning performances in NFL history, goes out with a ring. He has now surely cemented his place as one of the top quarterbacks of all-time. Newton, on the other hand, did what so many fans feared he would do, and choked. Was it solely his fault? Of course it wasn’t. But it was a shocking deviation at the worst possible moment in what was an otherwise stellar season
Last week, I wrote that this game would be an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. A wrecking ball meeting a brick wall. It was a hard fought game, but I know this: I’m never picking a fight with a brick wall.