One big game, two very different stories for Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
By Jeff Weisinger
One showed up ready to work and end his career on top, the other created another fashion statement, wore the gold cleats, and when the bright lights of the Super Bowl came on at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara Sunday night, he was nowhere to be found.
All of the smiles belonged to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning Sunday night as he earned his second Super Bowl ring in Denver’s 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Peyton is expected to ride into the sunset on top, much like his boss, Hall-of-Fame quarterback John Elway, did on a January night in 1999. In short, a fitting end to what is now a fitting signing four years ago.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 8, 2016
“I think he is probably just soaking it in,” Elway said of Peyton afterwards. “I remember when I won it, it is always the time to just sit there. There is so much hard work and it is such a long season that to be able to win the world championship and exhale and say, ‘We are world champs,’ is a great feeling. I am sure he is enjoying it now.”
“I think I will make a good decision,” Manning said after the game. “I think I’ll be at peace with it, whichever way it goes.”
Despite going out on top, Peyton played more of the game-manager role Sunday night, throwing for just 141 yards while throwing one interception and losing one fumble. The win is No. 200 for Peyton’s career, pushing him ahead of new-Hall of Famer Brett Favre and his second ring ties him with younger brother Eli.
In an age where quarterbacks are judged by the number of rings they earn, Peyton just about solidified his place as one of, if not the, greatest quarterback of all time.
On the other side, however, is Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who took home a piece of humble pie Sunday night.
Newton was sacked 6.5 times, fumbled twice and threw a pick, completing just 18-of-41 passes for 265 yards on the night with just 45 yards rushing, his worst performance overall during this year’s playoffs — that includes his 161 yard performance against Seattle in the NFC Divisional round, but he completed over 70 percent of his passes.
On Sunday, however, Cam showed his anxiety, overthrowing most of his passes early on, minus one scoring drive late in the first, going into the second quarter which ended with a diving touchdown by Jonathan Stewart — Carolina’s lone touchdown of the game.
For all of the hype that Cam brought with him into the biggest spotlight in pro football, Carolina’s No. 1 as we know it — smiling, dabbing and dancing — was nowhere to be found. Instead, Denver’s defense handled Newton and the Panthers like the schoolyard bullies they were acting as going in. Carolina trailed for the first time all postseason Sunday night once Denver’s Brandon McManus opened the scoring with a 34-yard field goal on the opening drive.
“This can’t turn into the ‘What happened to Cam Newton show,’” Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said.
Although Denver’s defense was the true star of the show Sunday night — as Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller deservedly took home Super Bowl MVP honors — a lot of the focus is going to be on Newton and his antics, lack of energy, displays of frustration and, as you may have heard about, his walk-out of his post-game presser.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) February 8, 2016
For the first time this season with Newton behind center, Carolina looked human, uncharacteristically turning the ball over, tipping passes, unable to execute anything offensively.
“When you really look at it more than anything else, the problem is we turned the ball over,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. “You’re not going to win football game when you make mistakes like that.
“Again, credit to them. [Denver] did some really great things. They really did.”
Cam Newton was hit 13 times in #SuperBowl50. He was hit an avg of 3.4 times per game beforehand and never more than 6 times this season
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 8, 2016
“They just played better than us,” Newton quickly said in his postgame presser before he flat-out got up and left.
For the first time, Newton and the Panthers got their butt-whooped, unfortunately, when all the eyes were on them — more particularly, however, on him.
— NFL (@NFL) February 8, 2016
As most looked to Newton to be that energetic leader on the sidelines as he had been during the team’s 15-win season, Newton instead went back to the sidelines quiet, non-demonstrative, and in the fourth quarter, near lifeless.
When C.J. Anderson ran in the game-clinching touchdown, Newton’s reaction on the sideline said it all. In the final quarter, he looked like a little kid close to having a tantrum that things didn’t go his way. From dropping to the ground on C.J. Anderson’s touchdown, to him being hit after throwing the ball away inside his own end zone on the following drive and throwing himself back on the ground after not getting a late-hit call that wasn’t, Cam’s actions in the end of an after Super Bowl 50 will be remembered more than the overall, MVP season he had.
With Peyton trotting on his horse, heading into the sunset, Cam takes over as the new face of the NFL. However, the new face of the entire NFL franchise will learn from this entire experience and return with a vengeance — one would hope.
While the last image we have of Peyton is him hoisting his last Lombardi trophy, ending his career on top, our last images of Cam is of him avoiding a fumble recovery, sulking on the bench, throwing his mini-tantrums on the sideline and on the field and walking out on his postgame presser.
A tale of two quarterbacks in every definition of the phrase.