Background on the teams of Super Bowl 50.
For many sports fans, the glimmering beacon of light in these dark winter days is the biggest sporting event in America: The Super Bowl. The match-up this year, at the 50th ever Super Bowl on Feb. 7, is an interesting one. The stampeding Carolina Panthers (15-1), led by quarterback Cam Newton, refused to even stumble as the playoffs roll on. On the other side is the battle-tested and experienced Denver Broncos (12-4), headed by all-time great quarterback Peyton Manning.
“Super Bowl 50 is as complex as it is exciting,”said Rutgers University’s Sports Journalism Professor, John Bratich. “[It’s] the clash of two different styles of quarterback: Manning, the embodiment of the old-fashioned gunslinger and Cam Newton, a peek into the future of the how athletic one needs to be to meet the demands of the position. The ensuing battle will no doubt enthrall everyone that watches.”
Manning, an experienced veteran and Super Bowl MVP, has seen his fair share of post-season play and the unpredictability that comes with it. After leading his Broncos team to the Super Bowl in the 2013-2014 season, most commentators and analysts predicted that he was confident and healthy enough to defeat the Seattle Seahawks, who sought their first ever Super Bowl win.
After an uncharacteristically nervous and seemingly unprepared performance, the Broncos fell 43-8. In a rout that left the football community in a state of sympathetic disbelief, most expected Peyton to fade slowly into the history books. The Broncos have fought hard to defy that prediction ever since. With new coach Gary Kubiak and Peyton Manning plagued with injuries, a different sort of bitter end loomed ahead for much of the season.
Fighting hard again, as Manning’s teams so often do, the Broncos stepped it up wherever it was needed. Back-up quarterback Brock Osweiler handled the pressure of replacing Manning supremely, going 5-2, beating feared teams like the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals. Their ticket to Super Bowl 50 was fought for most ferociously by the Denver defense, who led the league in sacks with 52. With experienced linebacker Von Miller, who racked up 11 sacks this season, and an outstanding secondary led by defensive back Aqib Talib, the defense showed a will for domination and key consistency. With the return of a healthy and eager Peyton Manning to complement the efforts of the defense, the Broncos have formed a team that is united and cohesive in play and valid under pressure.
In 2011, with the first overall pick of the NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers selected Auburn stand-out and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. Coming off a BCS National Championship win over Oregon, Newton was one of the most highly touted prospects in recent NFL history. In Newton’s rookie year, it became apparent to all who watched him that he had strong potential to the be the missing piece of the puzzle, the solution to the enigma that was the Carolina Panthers.
With talented players but no star to lead the show, Newton was an answer to the frustrated Carolina fans’ prayers. Going from 2-14 in 2010 to becoming consistent playoff contenders, it seemed inevitable that Newton had it in him to lead the team and its fans to the biggest stage in the sport. Charismatic, explosive and indomitably athletic, Newton knew the time was right this season to turn up his high-velocity, in-your-face style of taking on opponents. Newton combining with tight end Greg Olsen seemingly at will and a multi-faced rushing attack that placed second in the league in rushing yards concocted a swaggering and fearsome offense that scored.
Pre-season, many fans and analysts predicted that both teams would at least make the playoffs. More recently, the majority of football watchers agree that the Panthers will make easy work of their opponent, as they have done so many times this season. Still, the final will be the first ever that features two quarterbacks that were both picked number one overall in the draft. The hunger and ferocity of the Carolina team and community to get their hands on the Lombardi trophy for the first time will clash with the iron will of Peyton Manning, who seeks to redeem his humiliation in Super Bowl 48, and solidify his legacy as one of the greatest ever.