After two weeks of analysis, match-up breakdowns and hype the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers finally took the field at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. to determine the Super Bowl Champions for the 2015 NFL Season.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera elected to defer to the second half after winning the opening kickoff, giving the ball to future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning to start out the game.
The 18-year-old veteran started the drive by throwing the ball five-straight times en route to a 64-yard drive in 10 plays. Unfortunately for the Broncos, the Panthers defense tightened in the red zone and they were forced to settle for an early 3-to-0 lead.
The largest deficit in ever overcome by a Super Bowl Champion was 10, which was set last year when the New England Patriots came back to beat the Seattle Seahawks. The Broncos would get to that magical number, extending their lead before the end of the first quarter -- this time with their defense.
The league’s top-defense would get NFL MVP Cam Newton on second down, with Pro Bowler Von Miller sacking and stripping him to set up Malik Jackson with the recovery in the end zone to give the Broncos the 10-0 lead after one quarter.
After starting out a little jumpy, Newton and the Panthers offense would settle down in the second quarter. The 26-year-old quarterback would extend the series with a beautiful misdirection play to his tight end Greg Olsen. He’d then find a crossing Corey “Philly” Brown to get to set up a one-yard touchdown from Jonathan Stewart to make the score 10-7.
Special teams ace Jordan Norwood would help Denver extend their lead before halftime with a Super Bowl record return. Norwood took advantage of a lackadaisical play by the Panthers special teams unit and take the return 65 yards down sideline. Panthers Mario Addison saved four points though, making a touchdown-saving tackle. The Panthers defense would then force a three-and-out to force a field goal to make it a 13-7 lead heading into halftime.
Newton and the Panthers offense would get the ball back to start the second half after a halftime performance that featured Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyonce.
Speedy wide receiver Brown beat the double coverage deep down the middle of the field to elevate and haul down a big gain into Broncos territory. The Broncos’ fierce defense clamped down though, forcing a 44-yard field goal by Graham Gano that he clanked off the right upright to keep it a 13-to-7 game. The missed field goal gave the Broncos a short field which Manning capitalized on.
Manning and the offense drove down into field goal range where Brandon McManus connected from 30 yards out to make it a two-score game at 16-7.
It looked as if the Panthers would start a comeback, but Newton would throw a dime to wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. only to have the ball hit his hands and go up into the air and into Bay Area native T.J. Ward’s hands for the interception. Ward would fumble the ball, but the Broncos would hold on to the ball.
Second-year defensive lineman would give the Panthers a huge boost, sacking Manning for the third time of the day while also forcing the fumble back into Newton’s hands. They’d get another field goal, but that’s all they would be able to muster up.
Down 16-10 still, Newton and the Panthers actually had another opportunity to steal the game when they had to go 76 yards in just under five minutes. But the Broncos defense would prove to be too strong once again, just like they have all season.
Miller used his patented spin move once again to get by the offensive tackle and get to Newton, forcing another fumble - this time into Ward’s hands on the Panthers four-yard line. Fittingly, it would be Vallejo native C.J. Anderson that would punch in the touchdown that would ice the 24-10 victory for the Broncos in the Bay Area’s Super Bowl 50.
The Panthers gave one last effort at a comeback, but were forced to punt the ball back to the Broncos on 4th and 24 with two minutes left. Manning and the Broncos would run the clock out, making them Super Bowl Champions once again.