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QB clash: Wily Manning against flashy Newton

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

San Francisco — No matter what happens in Super Bowl 50, the quarterbacks will be a major story line.

With Denver’s Peyton Manning and Carolina’s Cam Newton, both No. 1 overall picks, the golden Super Bowl features one of the greatest quarterbacks in history and someone on track to become one of the game’s biggest stars.

Win or lose, attention immediately will shift to Manning and the possibility he retires after being the oldest starting quarterback (39) in a Super Bowl.

Win or lose, people will talk about the impact of Newton — on and off the field.

“Peyton said it best,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “(Newton) scores touchdowns that he doesn’t score, but at the same time, Peyton scores touchdowns that some other people don’t with the way that he throws the ball. He’s a tremendous football player. He’s had a tremendous career. He is a Hall of Famer and we know that. … It’s just a matter of what your philosophy and belief is as a head coach and as a coordinator. For us, what we do, Cam suits it the best.”

But there’s more intrigue to the game.

Once it begins, people might try to explain the game as a showdown between the traditional pocket passer — Manning — against a mobile one — Newton.

While Newton can run, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young said his approach has changed over the course of his five seasons.

“Cam transitioned this year where he’s not going anywhere until he has to,” he said.

Manning, too, had a transitional year.

After spending most of his first 17 seasons leading top-tier offenses, he was on a Broncos team that ranked 19th in scoring.

He missed six games with injury, but even when he played, it wasn’t up to his standard. For the first time since his rookie season in 1998, Manning threw more interceptions than touchdowns (17-9), and completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes.

But, Manning avoided those interceptions during the postseason, with none.

Former Super Bowl-winning quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said Manning needs 2.5 seconds in the pocket to make plays Sunday.

“I think he believes in the slow, bleed out approach that I’m going to make enough little decisions, (and) I’m going to play precise football,” Dilfer said.

Dilfer also said Manning “loves” his skill-position players, and at wide receiver, the Broncos undoubtedly have an advantage with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who each eclipsed 1,000 yards the past two years.

Of course, the Panthers have an advantage at tight end, as Greg Olsen has exceeded 1,000 yards in two straight seasons.

But even if Newton’s wide receivers aren’t stars, he still threw 35 touchdowns this season to go with the 10 he ran in.

“He’s going to do four to six things in this game that everybody’s jaw is going to drop,” Dilfer said.

“You can’t let those turn into points, and you can’t let it affect the rest of your approach. You’ve got to move onto the next play because remember, there’s 65 plays. Six isn’t going to get you beat.”

A few bad plays can get a team beat, though, which was the case in Manning’s last Super Bowl.

The Broncos gave up a safety on the first play against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, and Manning threw an interception returned for a touchdown that put the Broncos in a 22-0 hole.

Considering the Broncos scored more than 30 once this year, they can’t afford to be in such a deficit.

The biggest difference between the quarterbacks is likely their disposition on the field.

Manning often looks stoic and rarely shows emotion, while Newton is a fun-loving guy who dances and celebrates when the opportunity arises.

Even if it sounds cliché, Newton having fun is a big reason for his success.

“It’s been something that I’ve been doing since I was 7 years old, and nothing has changed up until that point,” he said. “I really don’t have alternative motives through it all, but yet for me, I can honestly say it’s still some characteristics that I still share when I was playing back at (the) park.”

Newton and the Panthers have been complimentary of Manning this week, and Manning and the Broncos have lauded Newton.

But on Sunday, if Manning mimics Newton at all, he said he’ll do so in more ways than one.

“If I run a touchdown — I promise if I run a touchdown on Sunday — I will celebrate,” he said. “I can assure you of that.”

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/jkatzenstein

Super Bowl 50

Carolina vs. Denver

Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.

TV/radio: CBS/97.1

Line: Carolina by 5