Broncos force four turnovers, win one for Manning

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
League MVP Cam Newton was sacked five times and lost two fumbles. Von Miller of the Broncos, who forced this first-half fumble which resulted in a touchdown, had 2.5 sacks.

Santa Clara, Calif. — Broncos linebacker Von Miller’s first solo sack resulted in a touchdown for Denver. His second helped seal the Broncos’ victory in Super Bowl 50.

“We just wanted to be the ‘Orange Rush,’ Miller said, “and it worked for us today.”

In a 24-10 win at Levi’s Stadium, the Broncos tied a Super Bowl record with seven sacks against Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, whose performance failed to measure up to his stellar season that resulted in an NFL MVP award.

With a smothering defensive performance led by Miller’s 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, Denver won its third title.

Coming into the game, the prevailing storylines centered on the quarterbacks. Denver’s Peyton Manning was playing in what could’ve been the final game in his mostly-stellar 18-year career, and Newton established himself in 2015 as one of the most exciting players in the NFL.

Instead, both defenses stole the spotlight, though the possibility of Manning retiring will be something to follow after he won the second title of his career.

“It is very special,” Manning said. “This game was like this season has been. It tested our toughness, our resilience and our unselfishness. It’s only fitting it turned out that way.”

Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning holds the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl 50.

Including the postseason, the Broncos won 11 games this season by seven or fewer points, which is an NFL record. Denver gained just 194 yards on offense, but coach Gary Kubiak said the “tremendous” defensive effort — the Panthers led the NFL averaging 31 points per game — and an edge on special teams carried the Broncos.

“It was just another grind-it-out win,” Kubiak said.

It was hardly a memorable performance by Manning as he completed 13 of 23 passes for just 141 yards and had an interception and two fumbles, though the Broncos recovered one. However, the win makes Manning the first quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl with two different teams (the Colts in 2006). At 39, Manning became the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, surpassing current Broncos general manager John Elway, who won Super Bowl XXXIII at 38.

The NFL’s MVP in 2015, Newton looked uncomfortable early, and then the repeated pressure from Miller and other Broncos defenders kept him flustered as he finished 16 of 38 for 245 yards with one interception and two lost fumbles.

Newton’s rough day included him running to the wrong side of the field as he tried to go into the locker room after a poor first half, heading to the same tunnel through which the Panthers entered the field instead of the one at the middle of the field where players exited for the break.

Newton’s confusion was antithetical to Miller’s performance as the Broncos' star pass rusher was zeroed in on the quarterback most of the game. And when Miller wasn’t running at Newton, he proved capable of being an all-around player as he broke up one long pass along the sideline to Carolina wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.

For the Panthers, little went according to plan as the team hardly resembled the powerhouse club that went 15-1 in the regular season and dominated its first two postseason games.

Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert, a two-time All-Pro, hadn’t fumbled since 2011, but put the ball on the ground twice in the first half.

Starting running back Jonathan Stewart suffered a foot injury on the second drive, and although he returned, he gained just 7 yards on six first-half carries.

In the end, four turnovers gave the Panthers little chance.

“You’re not going to win football games when you make mistakes like that,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said.

Meanwhile, Denver played its typical game with a swarming defensive effort that included tight coverage in the secondary and consistent pressure up front.

And Miller was so good that it was hard to fathom how frequently he was double-teamed.

“What game were y’all watching? I got chipped,” Miller said. "I got chipped almost every play.”

Miller said he didn’t mind the extra attention because it created openings for his fellow pass rushers. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware added two sacks and two tackles for loss.

For the Panthers, the offense hardly matched its potency from the season, but the defense kept the game close until late. Defensive end Kony Ealy had an incredible impact as a backup with three sacks, tying an NFL record, and a one-handed interception. He became the first player to have multiple sacks and a pick in a Super Bowl.

But, in a mostly defensive game, a 61-yard punt return by Denver’s Jordan Norwood, the longest in Super Bowl history, set up a first-half field goal and gave the Broncos an extra advantage.

The Broncos started strong, driving into Carolina territory on the opening drive before taking a 3-0 lead on a 34-yard field goal by Brandon McManus.

The next few drives were a sign of things to come as the defensive prowess of both teams produced some sloppy offensive football.

And on the Panthers’ second possession, the Broncos defensive line combined to make what proved to be the play of the game.

On a third down that followed a failed Carolina challenge and the Stewart injury, Miller sacked Newton and ripped the ball free. Defensive end Malik Jackson recovered the ball in the end zone to give Denver a 10-0 lead with 6:27 left in the first quarter.

Carolina responded with a 1-yard touchdown run by Stewart early in the second quarter, but the Broncos added a 33-yard field goal by McManus to make it 13-7 at the break.

The offensive struggles continued for both teams in the third quarter as the only score was a 30-yard field goal by McManus.

Panthers kicker Graham Gano, who missed a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter, added a 39-yarder early in the fourth quarter, but that was the last score for Carolina.

As the Panthers tried to mount their comeback, Miller sacked Newton again with about 4 minutes left in regulation. The ball came loose, and safety T.J. Ward recovered to give the Broncos the ball at the Carolina 4.

“I’m going for the ball every time,” Miller said. “That’s just the type of football player I am.”

A 2-yard touchdown run by C.J. Anderson, followed by a 2-point conversion pass to former Michigan State receiver Bennie Fowler, put the Broncos up 24-10 and sealed the victory.