Defense Wins SB50
by Logan Troy on Friday, February 12th, 2016
Though most local Patriots’ fans neither noticed nor cared, Super Bowl 50 did indeed take place this past Sunday. The dominant storyline heading into the game was how Peyton Manning could lead his underdog Denver Broncos to victory over the MVP Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers.
While everyone respected both teams’ elite defenses, most expected the game to be won or lost by the quarterbacks. After all, this is the passing era of the NFL. Once the game began, however, both formidable defenses let loose a barrage of pass-rush on the opposing quarterbacks that earned an unprecedented and Super Bowl-record 12 combined sacks. Add in the six turnovers and the awarding of the Super Bowl MVP to a defensive linebacker—this year Von Miller—for only the second time in the past 13 years. It is obvious that defense, not offense, dictated the game.
That said, the biggest question (or one of the biggest questions, alongside why viewers were forced to squeamishly sit through not one, but two advertisements about defecation) from Super Bowl 50 is whether future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning (brandishing his second Super Bowl ring) will ride into the sunset and retire. Can he, and should he, return for one more go-around after this season? For the past six months, he continued to battle excruciating pain from his numerous surgeries, endured booing on his home field, survived quarterback controversy, and denied allegations of using performance enhancing drugs. For what it’s worth, his mom, Olivia Manning, doesn’t think he should, according to ESPN. No matter what though, football fans can’t lose; either they just witnessed the greatest possible ending for one of the greatest careers in NFL history, or they get to enjoy the positive impact he has had on the entire league for one more year.
On the other side of things, Cam Newton continues to draw criticism for his behavior off the field, this time for his curt postgame news conference in which he displayed his disappointment with defeat before walking out early. After defying the moniker many players have given the NFL—the No-Fun-League—all season with his “dabbing,” it makes sense that fans would be quick to condemn Cam in his moment of defeat. But one could just as easily see the dejection he displayed as a Tom Brady-esque hatred of losing. Whether or not football fans like him, they’ll no doubt have to prepare for him to lead another strong Panthers team deep into the playoffs next year, when they will get their young, standout wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin back from injury.
The Broncos’ prospects for next year don’t look so rosy. With Pro Bowler Von Miller and starting running back CJ Anderson scheduled for unrestricted free agency, and Peyton Manning’s salary cap charge set to spike, Denver’s roster has more questions than answers. To make matters worse, backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, who filled in admirably when Manning sat out with plantar fasciitis, will also hit the open market and potentially leave the Broncos scrambling to find a viable option at quarterback. However, the way defense dictated this year’s Super Bowl almost casts doubt over the importance of elite quarterback play.
As a Patriots fan myself, I can’t help but console myself with how high, as always, New England’s potential is for next season. Despite the team’s not holding a first round draft pick thanks to the penalty Roger Goodell imposed on New England for its potential involvement in “Deflategate” and the looming court date for Tom Brady in the ongoing legal battle regarding his suspension, the core of this year’s injury ridden yet incredibly successful team will return for next season. With almost no high priced free agents this year, priority can be given to signing the key defensive players set to become free agents the year after: Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, and Dont’a Hightower. Although the team fell short of the ultimate goal in 2015, it is already one of the favorites to win Super Bowl LI with Las Vegas naming the Patriots co-favorites at 8-1 odds. As fans know, so long as Brady and Belichick remain together, the sky’s the limit.
Ultimately this year’s Super Bowl, while perhaps not thrilling fans with a nail-biter or a shoot-out, didn’t disappoint with the resurgence of hard-nosed defensive football that it brought. And, while both teams could very easily make the trip to Houston this time next year for the Super Bowl, Carolina holds the definite advantage thanks to its younger quarterback.
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