Denver Broncos storm Carolina Panthers to take Super Bowl 50

2016’s Super Bowl marked the 50th anniversary of the annual football game, an American sporting event so large that nearly 120 million football fans tune in each year. This year, the game featured the staunch defense of the Denver Broncos, led by veteran pass-rusher Von Miller, against the seemingly unstoppable Carolina Panthers, led by the 2015-2016 NFL MVP Cam Newton. At the end, it was the team from Mile High that defied Vegas and came out on top, as their defense stifled Newton, leading the underdog Broncos to a solid 24-10 victory.

The Broncos’ road to the Super Bowl, while certainly impressive, involved a little bit of luck in some of the their most important games.

The Broncos started the season 7-0, putting them atop their division and essentially clinching the team a playoff berth before the season was even half-way over. Denver’s first playoff game, the AFC Divisional Game, featured a matchup against an explosive Pittsburgh Steelers team, which experts said showcased the two best teams in the AFC. It also highlighted the return of Peyton Manning, whose poor play and injuries had kept him sidelined for the past few weeks. Fortunately for Denver, who had already lost to Pittsburgh earlier in the year, the Steelers were fresh off a gritty win in Cincinnati, which turned out to be a Pyrrhic Victory, as it resulted in the injuries of Pittsburgh’s two best players, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. The Broncos advanced past the beaten-up Steelers with a 23-16 victory, moving on to face the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC Championship.

Denver’s bout against New England, each fighting for a spot in the Super Bowl, was closely contested throughout the entire game. Luck came into play for the Broncos yet again as New England’s kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, one of the league’s best kickers, missed a point after touchdown early in the game. This miss would become extremely costly as the Patriots were forced to attempt a two-point conversion at the end of regulation in an effort to tie the game. Needless to say, their attempt failed, giving the Broncos a 20-18 win and sending them to their franchise-total eighth Super Bowl.

On the other side of the NFL, the Carolina Panthers were easily taking care of business. They started the season to their franchise-best record of 14-0, before being upset by the choke prone Atlanta Falcons, finishing the season with a near perfect record of 15-1. While the Broncos’ playoffs games each had nail-biting finishes, the Panthers cruised through their two games.

Carolina’s first playoff game, the NFC Divisional, matched them against the Seattle Seahawks, a dangerous team, which has been to the last two Super Bowls, winning one of them. This game was Carolina’s day, as the Panthers soared to a 31-0 lead, effectively putting the game out of reach for Seattle. While the Seahawks put together a ferocious comeback in the second half, the deficit was merely too much to overcome, and the Carolina Panthers held on for a 31-24 victory.

Carolina’s clash against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship proved to be another day in the office for Cam Newton and company, as the Panthers stomped the Cardinals, walking away with a noteworthy 49-15 victory.

Now the stage was set for the big game, and nearly everyone in the country saw no reason as to why the Panther’s success would stop at Super Bowl 50. Even Las Vegas, which regularly gives out lines and betting odds for every game, predicted Carolina to be a four-point favorite. Most fans, even avid Broncos supporters, felt that the Panthers would emerge victorious.

“Even though I’m a big Broncos fan, I honestly didn’t expect us to win,” said sophomore Ryan Suddath. “Carolina’s offense seemed too good for us.”

There were some who trusted in the Denver defense.

“I know that everyone was predicting Carolina to win, and I completely understand that,” said sophomore Andrew Lingle. “But like they say, ‘defense wins championships,’ and in my opinion, Denver has the best defense in the league.”

The actual game, was not what the public expected. The Carolina Panthers, who were averaging a league’s-best 31.2 points per game, were held to only 10 points in 60 minutes of playing time. Panther’s head coach, Ron Riviera, attributes this lack of production to the Bronco’s defensive line, which had been pressuring and pummeling Cam Newton all night.

“We just never really slowed down their pass rush,” said Riviera.

The performance of the Denver defensive line, especially that of Von Miller, who was later named the Super Bowl MVP, was one for the ages. The defense combined for a Super Bowl-record-tying seven sacks, two of which caused by Miller, and forced four turnovers by the Panthers.

“Their defensive line was very impressive and gave us fits all night,” said Broncos star quarterback Peyton Manning in an interview after the game. “But our defense was even better. They’ve been great all season, and they showed that tonight as well.”

The Broncos’ taking of the Lombardi Trophy this year gives Manning, who turns 40 this March, the perfect venue to retire. Manning can now follow NFL greats such as Jerome Bettis, Michael Strahan, and John Elway, who all ended their career after winning a Super Bowl.

While some people watch the game only to enjoy themselves, head football Coach Gerry Romberg sees an extra reason to tune into the event.

“I am a defensive coach by nature,” said Romberg. “I’d say I was most impressed by the defenses on both sides of the ball, but especially on the part of Denver. In the league today, the game is set to give the offense the advantage, so I was extremely impressed at how well the defenses played. Obviously these players are pro-athletes playing at the highest level, but I’d say that their performance set a great example for our very own football team.”

In addition to being the most-watched spectacle on American television, the Super Bowl also serves as a fun social experience.

“The game itself is always fun,” said Lingle. “But in my opinion, the best thing about the game is the parties. Having all that good food and hanging out with your friends is the most fun part.”