I had about 300 words down for why I love the Super Bowl (and Peyton Manning and the Panthers), and why the Panthers were going to win 35-13. Pretty glad I didn’t publish that sucker, now that I think about it.
So, we’re not quite 48 hours past the end of Super Bowl 50, and I think I’m about 85% recovered from the loss. I was convinced that the Panthers would win. I thought that their play throughout the season, coupled with a declining Peyton Manning, would result in a fairly easy win. I ignored the fact that this was Cam Newton’s first SB, and I covered my ears when smart people talked about the likelihood of Von Miller and Demarcus Ware shredding the tackles for Carolina. Of course, the latter happened to a degree that we’ve never seen before, and the Panthers seemingly were overmatched from the first drive on. At the end of the night, I end up sitting through my third-toughest sports experience ever, I think (In case you were wondering, I actually wrote down my other awful sports experiences).
Now that I’ve had time to think about the game, and the season, as a whole, I wanted to list some quick-hit thoughts. Some of these thoughts were formulated after listening and reading people much smarter than me, and I will give credit to them if so:
-On Cam during the game: I don’t think there’s really anything I can say that will change your mind, and I am aware that I am fairly biased because of my emotional investment in the Carolina Panthers. I do believe that he played a fair game. It wasn’t good, but it really wasn’t bad. The drop by Cotchery that “should” have been a catch was huge. If the ball is caught cleanly, that’s at least a 20-yard play. Cotchery dropped another pass in the third quarter that would have given Carolina a goal-to-go situation. Ginn dropped a pass that was intercepted (when Phil Simms famously said that the ball was thrown too hard). Jonathan Stewart dropped a pass in the flat on 1st-and-10 on one drive. If any of those plays are made, it would have made a world of difference. I know that Newton is the MVP, but there aren’t eleven of him out there on the field. When he could have used a helping hand the most, the team around him came up short.
-On Cam after the game: I guess it would have been nice for Cam to at least stick around and answer the other questions being asked (even though it seemed like they were all the same question, maybe worded differently). I’m not very sure why people thought that Newton would act any differently than he’s always acted since he’s been in the league. Peep this line from Deion Sanders:
Deion Sanders said Cam is the face of the league as its newest MVP. He said Newton made a huge mistake by walking off like that.“You can’t do that,” Sanders said. “A Manning, a Brady, all these guys that has been the prototypical quarterbacks in our league…they would not do that….You’re opening yourself up for more criticism. Everybody’s going to say, ‘You’re dabbin’ and smilin’ and stylin’ and profiling when you’re winning. So this is how you’re gonna act when you lose?’”
The part that’s hilarious is the “face of the league” line. Is Deion referring to a league where guys are beaten to a pulp every week, and many of its players can barely walk without a significant limp? Is this the same league that continues to deny the link between football and CTE? Is this the same league that let Greg Hardy be employed by a team after he threw around his then-girlfriend as a ragdoll? Are we referring to the NFL, where a team can be shuttled from one city to another just because the owner can’t get a favorable deal for a taxpayer-funded stadium? So, as the “face” of that league, Cam Newton should be gracious and humble? You can miss me with that.
-I should say some words about the Broncos, right? John Elway should get some kind of presidential medal for what he’s done in Denver. He brought in Peyton Manning, got some significant contributions from him, got Peyton to take a paycut, fired the coach and re-tooled the defense so effectively that they won the Super Bowl in resounding fashion, even though they had (by most measures) the worst QB in the league. That’s mesmerizing.
-Most people believe that Peyton Manning is done playing football. It’s hard not to see why: he’s suffered from injuries and an incredible level of ineffectiveness since late last season. He was a part of a Super Bowl-winning team (it would not be fair to say that he contributed to that win in any way). But sports are weird. Most of the great ones never go out the way that we think they should. Part of me thinks that Peyton could convince himself that he could get physically “right” and re-tool his approach (not going to win games because of him, but the mind is still strong) to still contribute to an NFL team. I don’t believe it would be wise for him to return, but again, this isn’t about you or me.
-If there was anyone that I truly felt bad for on Carolina’s side Sunday night, it was Josh Norman, (completely took Demaryius Thomas out of the game) Kony Ealy (3 sacks and an INT in 23 snaps!) and Thomas Davis (played with a broken arm and got 7 tackles). The defense did their part. Denver had less than 200 total yards!
-The Cam Effect: Even though Denver won the game, for some reason they had to find a way to take some extra jabs at Cam Newton. Of course, you could say that Newton brings this on himself with the way he celebrates on the field. However, once the game is over, I’ve never seen Cam speak negatively about any opponent. To me, it seems like the Broncos were oddly rubbed the wrong way with the Panthers. Maybe they don’t like that the Panthers are essentially enjoying success. Maybe Denver felt like they weren’t getting any attention leading up to the game. I’m not sure what it was, but Denver left no doubt who was the best team Sunday night. There was really no need to take more shots well after the game had ended.
-While I don’t have any real beef with the offensive gameplan from Carolina, I’m not sure why they essentially abandoned the running game. The score was tight throughout, and the Panthers have/had one of the most diverse running attacks around. You would not have known that if Sunday was your first time watching Carolina play this season. I still think that there were enough chances that, if converted, would have won the game. But by making the offense one-dimensional, the Panthers really didn’t do everything they could have to give themselves the best chance to win.
-In closing, I believe what’s most disappointing about the Panthers losing the Super Bowl is the unknown. Not from the game itself, mind you. While everyone on the team talked confidently about being back, there’s no real way to know that for sure. Yes, Carolina ran through the NFC with relative ease. That’s not a given every year. In the NBA, most smart folks figured a few years ago that the Oklahoma City Thunder would make multiple trips to the NBA Finals. Then injuries happened. Now, there’s a chance that Kevin Durant may leave after this season. Injuries happen all the time. Some team could come and offer Josh Norman all of the dollars. You really never know. Of course, that doesn’t mean you just give up, but it makes the missed opportunities sting so much more.