Defense leads Denver to third Super Bowl title

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News
Carolina Panthers’ Mike Tolbert, left, forces a fumble by Denver Broncos’ T.J. Ward (43) during the second half.
  • Super Bowl 50 starts at 6:30 p.m. on CBS (Locally on channel 62)

Broncos claim third Super Bowl title

The Denver Broncos defense came out on a mission against the league's best offense in Super Bowl 50. And boy oh boy did they show up in a big way en route to a 24-10 victory and the franchise's third Super Bowl championship.

Von Miller stripped the ball from Cam Newton in the first quarter as the defense scored the game's first touchdown. With his team up 16-10 and the Panthers in possession of the ball, Miller again forced a Newton fumble that was recovered by T.J. Ward at the Carolina 4 and set up the winning touchdown run by C.J. Anderson.

There was a lot in between, including two other Carolina turnovers and a missed field goal. The Panthers really shot themselves in the foot with penalties and the Broncos were happy to just sit back and let their defense take them home.

Miller is the MVP of the game, but Peyton Manning is going to get all the headlines. One of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL has won his second championship after a dismal performance against the Seahawks two years ago.

Cam Newton meets Mr. Miller...again

Von Miller did it again. The best linebacker in football forced another fumble from Cam Newton and T.J. Ward was once again the recipient of an easy turnover, picking up the ball before being pounced on at the Carolina 4.

Peyton Manning and Co. were comfortable to run the ball twice and throw it away on third down, but Josh Norman was called for holding and Denver was given a first down at the 1. C.J. Anderson punched it in from a yard out for the touchdown and Manning struck former MSU receiver Bennie Fowler for a two-point conversion. 24-10, Denver leads, 3:08 to play.

Defense is the name of the game

The Broncos and Panthers exchanged punts and Denver seems content to put this game in the hands of its defense. On its next possession, the Broncos ran the ball three times before punting it yet again. It may not be flashy, but Denver knows where its strengths lie.

It's still 16-10, Broncos lead with 4:51 to play. Carolina ball at its own 24.

Panthers cut into Broncos lead thanks to strip sack

The Broncos had it in their sights as Peyton Manning again found Emmanuel Sanders, this time for 16 yards, that coupled with another 15-yard penalty on the Panthers put the Broncos in Carolina territory. The Panthers weren't quite ready to call it quit, though, as Kony Ealy sacked Manning and forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Charles Johnson.

The Panthers got into the red zone, but they stalled yet again. Luckily, Graham Gano was able to knock through this attempt from 39 yards out to pull Carolina to with six. It's 16-10, Denver leads, with 10:21 to play.

End 3rd: (Denver 16, Carolina 7)

The Broncos punted the ball back to Carolina after going three-and-out. Another personal foul penalty cost the Panthers decent field position, and after picking up one first down, Cam Newton was swallowed up by Von Miller and the Broncos swarming defense.

Denver will have the ball at its own 32 as the fourth quarter gets underway.

Carolina stalls...again

Cam Newton hit Philly Brown for a 42-yard gain to get into Denver territory, but the Panthers stalled again as Newton threw a rocket to Ted Ginn that went off the wide receiver's hands and into the waiting arms of Broncos safety T.J. Ward. Ward stumbled as he tried to run with the ball, then fumbled before Danny Trevathan pounced on the loose ball to preserve the turn of events for the Broncos.

McManus hits another

Brandon McManus was called upon for a third time tonight as the Denver offense stalled once again in the red zone. He nailed a 30-yard kick to give his team a 16-7 lead with 8:18 to play in the third quarter. McManus is now 10-for-10 on field goals in the postseason, and more importantly, the Broncos now have a precious two possession lead in a game that's being dominated by defense.

Peyton Manning started the drive out hitting Emmanuel Sanders for a 25-yard gain and 22-yarder to get into the red zone. He hasn't been vintage by any means tonight, but Manning is doing just enough to keep his team in front.

Gano misses field goal to open half

The Panthers gained a bit of momentum coming out of the break, driving into Broncos territory on the back of two big passes from Cam Newton to Tedd Ginn. A personal foul penalty came back to haunt Carolina, though, and they were forced to settle for a 44-yard Graham Gano field goal attempt that bounced off the right upright to preserve the 13-7 Denver lead.

Newton hit Ginn for 45 yards on a nice catch and run from the former Ohio State star wide receiver. After a first down run by Fozzy Whitaker netted 10 yards, the Panthers were hit with a 15-yard personal foul penalty and taken back to the Broncos 40. Newton hit Ginn for a 14-yard gainer and another first down before the Denver defense stiffened.

Broncos take lead into halftime

The first half came to an end with Carolina taking its sweet time to get to the Denver 45. DeMarcus Ware sacked Cam Newton as time expired to send the teams to the break with the Broncos leading, 13-7.

Denver started fast and Newton had one drive that reminded you of why he is such a tremendous threat, but it's the defenses that have settled in and taken over Super Bowl 50 heading into halftime.

Both teams are flying around on the defensive side of the ball, and receivers can't find any open space to give their quarterbacks a window to throw into. The Panthers have turned the ball over twice, and the Broncos have coughed it up once on a Peyton Manning interception. The winner of this game is probably going to be determined by which offense can make the necessary adjustments at halftime and put together at least two decent drives in the second half.

Halftime stats:

Pass: Peyton Manning (9-for-16, 76 yards, INT). Cam Newton (8-for-19, 95 yards)

Rush: DEN (57 yards--Anderson 58, Hillman -1). CAR (82 yards--Newton 46, Whittaker 16, Tolbert 13, Stewart 7)

Panthers and Broncos exchange turnovers

A big penalty on the Broncos set the Panthers up at midfield, Mike Tolbert 11 yards fumbles recovered by Danny Trevathan. C.J. Anderson reeled off a 34-yard run down to the Panthers 26, but Peyton Manning was picked off by Kony Ealy on third down to give the ball back to Cam Newton and the Carolina offense.

Big return nets Broncos a FG

Jerious Norwood returned a punt 61 yards (the longest in Super Bowl history) to the Carolina 14, but Peyton Manning and Co. couldn't bring it home with a touchdown, instead settling for a 33-yard Brandon McManus field goal and a 13-7 lead with 6:58 to play in the 2nd quarter.

The Broncos lined up to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Panthers 5. It initially looked like CJ Anderson had the first down, but Denver was called for holding and had to take the three points.

So far, it's defense and special teams carrying the Broncos in this game. The Panthers D has been stout since the opening drive.

Panthers get back in it with Stewart TD

Jonathan Stewart turned back the clock and capped an impressive drive for Carolina, leaping over the Broncos defensive line for a 1-yard touchdown. It's now 10-7, Denver leads with 11:25 to play until halftime.

Cam Newton started to show off his wheels on the drive, going off for runs of 11 and 12 yards before hitting Greg Olsen for a 19-yard gainer on third down. On the next play, Philly Brown caught a 13-yard pass to get inside the Broncos 5. An Aqib Talib facemask penalty put the ball at the 1 to set up Stewart's score.

The Panthers have found a little something on both sides of the ball. Game on.

End 1st (Denver 10, Carolina 0)

The Panthers finally have something going after Cam Newton found Philly Brown for 20 yards for a big first down near midfield.

Denver defense not messing around

The Panthers couldn't take advantage of a taunting penalty on the Broncos' Aqib Talib that set them up with a first down at their own 45. Denver had Carolina stuffed once and had no trouble stuffing them again, forcing a Panthers punt three plays later. The best defense in the NFL is on fire right now.

Huge turn of events leads to Broncos TD

After the Carolina defense forced a three-and-out of its own, its offense got the ball back only to have the tide completely turned in favor of the Broncos. A controversial challenge didn't go the Panthers' way after what, to a lot of people, looked to be a Jerricho Cotchery catch. On third down, Von Miller got to Cam Netwon and forced a fumble that was recovered by Malik Jackson in the end zone for a touchdown.

It's 10-0, Broncos lead with 6:27 to play in the 1st quarter.

Panthers go three-and-out on opening drive

Cam Newton overshot a wide open Philly Brown on second down. That proved to be costly as the Panthers came up short of the first down by about a foot after Newton hit tight end Greg Olsen just in front of the sticks. Aqib Talib did a nice job wrapping up Olsen so that he couldn't work himself up field.

Denver will take over at its own 25.

Broncos strike first with McManus FG

Peyton Manning turned back the clock for the first drive of Super Bowl 50, driving his offense down the field with big pass plays, eventually setting up a first down at the Carolina 14.

Manning hit Owen Daniels for 18 yards on the first play of the night before stirking again to Andre Caldwell for 22 yards on third down to get into Carolina territory.

The Panther defense stiffened, though, stuffing C.J. Anderson on first down before an incompletion and a 1-yard pass from Manning to Anderson. Brandon McManus hit a chip shot field goal from 34 yards out to give the Broncos an early 3-0 advantage in the first quarter.

Super Bowl 50 pregame

Two vastly different quarterbacks, two extraordinary defenses, one goal.

Super Bowl 50 is just about ready to kick off from Santa Clara, California, and the hype has reached a fever pitch.

The Denver Broncos will try to win their third Lombardi Trophy in franchise history behind Peyton Manning and the league's best defense. Manning, 39, is the oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history. This is his fourth (and probably last) trip to the big game and second as a Bronco. He's 1-2, including a 43-8 drubbing at the hand of the Seattle Seahawks just two years ago. Tonight provides one last chance to ride off into the sunset for one of the game's legendary players.

Manning's counterpart, Cam Newton, is primed to bring home a first championship to favored Carolina. The Panthers have been here before, in February of 2004, where the franchise suffered a heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Newton has revolutionized the quarterback position, as he's routinely the best athlete on the field. In the face of much criticism, he's one win away from cementing his name among the greats.

The matchup of these two quarterbacks will be the first time in Super Bowl history that signal callers drafted with the first overall pick in their respective draft years will face off. Manning was taken #1 by the Colts in 1998, while Newton was the top selection for the Panthers in 2011. And while these two men will have a lot to say about tonight's outcome, the other side of the ball is a prime focus in tonight's game.

Both teams have outstanding defenses that mirror each other in more ways than one. Josh Norman is the shutdown corner for Carolina, while Aqib Talib has been one of the best in the NFL over the last two seasons for Denver. And when you talk about playmakers, you have to mention the Panther's Luke Kuechly and the Broncos' Von Miller in the same breath. Both are elite playmakers, and they just might be the two best linebackers in the NFL.

So much hype, but it's just about over. All the pomp and circumstance surrounding tonight's game doesn't mean anything to these two teams. This game is going to be remembered for what happens between the lines. So for the last time until September, it's time to play some football.