Rapid reaction: Broncos defense wins Sheriff’s last ride

Michael Smith, Reporter

Time to say “Called it.” Sunday night, the Denver Broncos pulled off an upset in Santa Clara, the location of Super Bowl 50, winning 24-10. The matchup pitted the top seed from each division, and showed off the star-studded defense each team relied on through the playoffs. Denver’s defense raised its performance to match the height of the stage, racking up seven sacks, tying a Super Bowl record. The Broncos defense also provided the first touchdown of the game, as Von Miller strip-sacked Cam Newton, and defensive tackle Malik Brown dove on the ball in the end zone.

NFL MVP Cam Newton tied a Super Bowl record with 10 overthrown passes, while also throwing a pick and losing two fumbles. The Carolina offense outgained the Broncos 315-194, but Carolina, the team that led the NFL with a +20 turnover ratio during the regular season, lost the turnover battle 4-2. Denver’s abysmal offensive performance set several records, making the Super Bowl 50 champions the first team to win a Super Bowl with less than 200 total yards, and converted only one of 14 third downs. Denver kicker Brandon McManus made all three of his field goals, and head coach Gary Kubiak became the first person in NFL history to win a Super Bowl as a player and as the head coach of the same team.

Denver’s stacked defense carried the team, as they did all season. Linebacker Von Miller won the game’s MVP, recording six tackles, two and a half sacks, and two forced fumbles. The team stifled a Carolina offense that averaged 31.5 points per game during the regular season, holding Newton’s offense to a season-low 10 points. Denver’s defense and special teams kept the ball on Carolina’s side of the field, setting the team up for three field goals and a go ahead rushing touchdown by Broncos’ running back C.J. Anderson with just over three minutes. At the game’s conclusion, many began to place the 2015 Denver defense in history. Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall says: “The 2015 Broncos are one of the greatest defenses of all time.” The team has all league talent at every position, and most players remain under contract for the 2016 season.

Excluding the biggest punt return in a Super Bowl from Bronco receiver Jordan Norwood (61 yards), both defenses matched, and possibly exceeded, expectations. With Denver playing conservatively and Carolina struggling to throw the football, the game produced few memorable or game-altering plays, but allowed Peyton Manning to steadily walk up to the line of scrimmage and hand it off to Denver’s running backs or throw it quickly to Emmanuel Sanders and the rest of the Bronco receiving corps.

The Broncos sealed the game with just over three minutes remaining. As the Panthers attempted to surmount a six point deficit, Newton fumbled the ball. After the ball disappeared under a mass of bodies, it squirted out down near the five yard line, where Bronco safety T.J. Ward recovered it. Denver handed the ball off to running back C.J. Anderson, who failed to pick up significant yardage. On third down and goal, Manning lined up under center and quickly threw the ball through the back of the end zone in the direction of Dymarius Thomas, seemingly setting up yet another field goal. However, star Panther cornerback Josh Norman received a holding penalty for tossing Thomas to the ground, setting up a first down from the three yard line. C.J. Anderson expanded the lead to 24-10, sealing the Bronco trophy and sending “The Sheriff,” (Peyton Manning) off in what served as a probable final game for the 18 year veteran, giving him his second Lombardi trophy and 200th career victory, setting a record for the most victories by a quarterback in NFL history.