I’ll always remember the first time the Broncos won the Super Bowl, what a relief it was to see my favorite team finally win the Lombardi, to see John Elway get his ring after three disappointing Super Bowl outcomes, and to see Terrell Davis run roughshod against a Packers defense that so many believed would have its way against the Broncos.
But the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 win may be the most satisfying of them all. Everyone was convinced that the Panthers would have their way, that the Broncos defense had never played an offense like the Panthers and that Peyton Manning had nothing left in the tank and would fold against the Panthers defense.
Not only were the doubters proven wrong, but the Broncos can smile, knowing that they got Pat Bowlen yet another championship. (And how awesome was it that John Elway got to thank him for everything?)
The Super Bowl 50 win wasn’t perfect, but you know what? Neither was the Broncos’ first Super Bowl win. The Broncos turned the ball over twice against Carolina (one fumble lost, one interception), but the same thing happened against Green Bay. There were some silly penalties at the wrong times, but once again, it happened against Green Bay, too. And there were close calls at several points, but that happened against Green Bay as well.
I was reminded about those things when I sat down to watch my DVD of Super Bowl XXXII this afternoon. You probably don’t remember the interception that Steve Atwater dropped or that John Elway put up a couple of ill-advised throws that were nearly intercepted. And we all had to hold our collective breaths when Atwater left the game for the final play after he collided with Robert Brooks and Randy Hilliard.
But you know what? The Broncos got it done when they needed to, just like they got it done in Super Bowl 50.
So just like we forgot about the mistakes when the Broncos beat the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, we are going to forget about the mistakes the Broncos made in Super Bowl 50 and focus on what led to this victory and why everyone who underestimated the Broncos’ chances (granted, those are people who don’t frequent this site) had best never underestimate a team that fields an historically great defense.
Let’s talk about the good stuff, shall we?
1. Von Miller was a most deserving Super Bowl MVP and, yes, he’ll deserve every penny of that new contract that will be coming his way. Miller can do so many things well on the field and Wade Phillips used him everywhere. He dropped into coverage a few times, but we know the place where he made the biggest impact was in the pass rush. He had 2.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and terrorized right tackle Mike Remmers. Of course, we saw a few instances in which Remmers was holding Miller, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough to stop Miller from getting to Cam Newton.
2. How much better is this defense with DeMarcus Ware on the field? He got his fair share of making life miserable for Cam Newton, with two sacks and several hits on top of that. He mostly lined up against left tackle Michael Oher, who struggled with him much of the time.
3. The Broncos would never have sent T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart in on a delayed blitz against Pittsburgh or New England, but it worked out nicely against Carolina’s max protect. Speaking of Stewart, that MCL didn’t seem to bother him, as he was all over the field making plays, notably a forced fumble that Danny Trevathan recovered.
4. Oh yeah, Danny Trevathan. He also made sure that interception T.J. Ward had, then lost, stayed with the Broncos. And you can’t argue with a guy who leads the team in tackles. Trevathan seemed to be wherever the ball was.
5. Derek Wolfe keeps on earning that big extension he signed. He was credited with half a sack, but where he really shined was in run defense, not allowing the Panthers to gain much on the ground.
6. Speaking of the run game, Jonathan Stewart was mostly a non-factor. Some will blame it on him battling an ankle injury, but he averaged just 2.4 yards per carry on 12 attempts and you have to give credit to the Denver run defense for that. Mike Tolbert was more effective, rushing for 3.6 yards per carry, but he fumbled twice and lost one.
7. Meanwhile, C.J. Anderson averaged 3.9 yards per carry. It wasn’t the best performance overall from him, but he was certainly effective. Who didn’t love watching him fight off Panthers for yards, including his first-down run deep in Broncos territory in which the Broncos gave new meaning to “push the pile”?
8. Emmanuel Sanders was the other standout on offense, as he caught six of his eight targets for 83 yards. Robert McClain did win a few of the times he matched up with Sanders, but not enough.
9. Who would have ever thought that the first guy to beat Josh Norman on coverage would be Andre Caldwell and that it would happen on the first drive of the game? Did somebody mention how most players want to play their best in the Super Bowl? Caldwell did that whenever he touched the ball.
10. Kavyon Webster continues to be so impressive on special teams. Ted Ginn Jr. didn’t get many chances for lengthy punt returns because Webster was there before he had a chance to find room.
11. Somebody needs to tell the Panthers that they should understand what a fair catch signal really is. Credit goes to Jordan Norwood for not just taking off when he did, but for securing what was a tough punt to catch in that situation. Norwood was smart all game with his returns, as a matter of fact.
12. Britton Colquitt may not be a Bronco next year, but after his postseason performance overall, he will make any decision to cut him a difficult one.
13. Gary Kubiak didn’t hold back with his play calling in the Super Bowl. It seems on the way to the big game, he was trying to survive, but once the Broncos reached the big game, he cut loose. The greatest play call he made was going for two after Anderson’s touchdown, ensuring that the Panthers would really have their backs to the wall.
14. I’m just going to tip my hat to Peyton Manning and tell him how I happy I am he got another ring.
15. I’m also happy for Wade Phillips. He’s done so much for this defense and deserves every accolade he gets.
16. I’m sure several players were happy to get their first ring, but two that come to mind are DeMarcus Ware, who put faith in John Elway for that speech he gave when he first signed with the Broncos, and Evan Mathis, who made it no secret he was taking less money to play for a championship.
17. Of course, we can also be happy for those players who were on the roster in 2013 and didn’t get to play in the Super Bowl. Specifically, Chris Harris, Derek Wolfe and Von Miller. As for Ryan Clady, with any luck, he’ll be able to play the next time the Broncos are on the big stage.
18. Back to Manning: We have seen him take the field for the last time. He may not be saying it yet, but you can tell from his tone and posture that he knows he has reached the end of the road. The good news is that he seems to be at peace with that. Thank you, Peyton Manning, for some wonderful times.