The Carolina Panthers lost 24-10 to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50, denying Carolina the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
The Panthers had trailed by at least 10 points for three times in a magical 17-1 run to the Super Bowl, and rallied to win each time.
But this was the Super Bowl, and the Panthers trailed 10-0 in the first quarter and 16-7 in the fourth.
They weren’t without chances. Carolina recovered a fumble on Kony Ealy’s strip sack of Peyton Manning, possibly playing the final game of a Hall of Fame career, gave the Panthers a short field and set up Graham Gano’s 39-yard field goal to cut Denver’s lead to 16-10.
After a three-and-out by the Broncos and Panthers, Denver had their seventh three-and-out of the game, Carolina got the ball back with 4:51 on the clock.
That set up a matchup of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, newly minted MVP and leader of the NFL’s top-ranked offense, against Broncos’ top-ranked defense.
He couldn’t. Super Bowl MVP Von Miller beat tackle Mike Remmers for his second strip-sack of Newton, and T.J. Ward recovered at the Carolina 4.
Four plays later, C.J. Anderson scored from two yards out. The two-point conversion made gave Denver a 24-10 lead.
Manning finished 13 of 23 for 141 yards in what might have been his last NFL game, but with that defense it was more than enough for a Lombardi Trophy.
Denver was the 12th team to bring the NFL’s top-ranked defense to the Super Bowl, and 10 times the top-ranked defense has won.
Miller was a problem for the Panthers all night.
He beat Remmers off the left side and stripped Newton of the football, and Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson recovered in the end zone for a touchdown that made it 10-0 with 6:27 to play in the first quarter.
Three who mattered
Von Miller: Denver’s star outside linebacker was taken second to Cam Newton in the 2011 draft but was the first of the two to make a big play in the Super Bowl, stripping Newton and leading to Denver’s recovery for a touchdown.
Jerricho Cotchery: After not recording a drop in 44 catches in the regular season and playoffs, Cotchery dropped three passes in Super Bowl 50. All three would have resulted in first downs, one inside the Denver 5.
Mike Remmers: Unable to slow Denver’s Miller, Remmers was emblematic of a Panthers offensive line that struggled to protect Newton, who took six of Carolina’s seven sacks in the game.
—Carolina defensive end Kony Ealy’s one-handed interception on a zone blitz drop into the secondary and 19-yard return saved the Panthers points even if it didn’t lead to any. Ealy also had three sacks, one a strip-sack, making him the first player in Super Bowl history with both an interception and multiple sacks.
—The Panthers hadn’t looked overmatched by a defensive line all season until Sunday. The Broncos got to Cam Newton six times.
—Attendance was 71,088, and probably 50 percent of them were Broncos fans. They were loud, too, when the Broncos were on defense.
—Mike Tolbert fumbled twice in the first half, but got one of them back.
—Panthers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who has been so clutch all season, had two drops in the first quarter and another in the third. He had no drops in 42 receptions in the regular season and playoffs coming in.
—The Broncos appeared to have a three-and-out late in the first quarter, but Aqib Talib got in Philly Brown’s face and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. No matter. The Panthers could not gain a first down and punted three plays later.
—Newton threw for 35 touchdowns in the regular season and none Sunday.
—The Panthers went three-and-out on their first drive, and it was a precursor. The teams combined for seven three-and-outs in the first half.
—The Panthers had two challenges in the first half and won one, but it left them without a challenge for the remainder of the game.
—The Panthers were plus-28 in turnover margin this season coming into Sunday. In the Super Bowl they were minus-2.
—Jonathan Stewart went down with a left ankle injury in the first quarter and was pronounced questionable to return. He missed one series, then scored a leaping 1-yard touchdown with 11:25 to play in the second quarter to cut Denver’s lead to 10-7.
—Thomas Davis was elusive during the week, but he called tails on the coin toss, as is his custom. It was tails, and the Panthers deferred.
—The Super Bowl after the 2016 season will be held at Houston’s NRG Stadium on Feb. 5, 2017, and it will return, unfortunately, to Roman numerals and be known as Super Bowl LI.
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