The star of the game for the Carolina Panthers would have to be defensive end Kony Ealy, who had the best game in his two years in the NFL. The former Missouri Tiger finished the game with three sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one interception.
Ealy got started in the second quarter when he got pressure on Peyton Manning on a play that was originally ruled an incomplete pass. Ron Rivera challenged the call after the replay showed Ealy actually got a hand on the Broncos' quarterback as he was falling to the ground.
It was later in the quarter that Ealy made an acrobatic, one handed interception when he dropped back into coverage and got in the passing lane of Manning. He was able to get his hand on the ball and tipped it to himself for the pick but he wasn't done there as he weaved his way through the Broncos for a 19-yard return.
He wasn't done there though as he had two more sacks in the second half, one in the third quarter and one in the fourth. The play in the final quarter, Ealy was able to get his hand out and knock the ball away from Manning as he was bringing it up to throw. Ealy was then able to recover the fumble and give the Panthers' offense excellent field position at midfield.
The three sacks by Ealy ties a Super Bowl record with two other players. Former Panther Reggie White accomplished it as a member of the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI and Darnell Dockett in Super Bowl XLIII as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.