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Eye on the Ball: Defense prevails in Super Bowl 50



By Brandon Niles EBS Sports Columnist

Throughout the off-season, many remarks will be made about the Denver Broncos and their Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers.

People will point to the off-field allegations against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, and will discuss the leadership of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after he ended a post-game press conference short. However, all the noise surrounding these stories has overshadowed what was an amazing Super Bowl.

The offenses struggled in the 24-10 Broncos victory. There were no helmet catches or heroic drives and it was the lowest scoring Super Bowl since 2008.

Instead, fans were treated to two incredible defensive performances. There’s an old adage that defense wins championships, and watching Broncos linebacker and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller rack up two-and-a-half sacks and a forced fumble recovered for a touchdown demonstrated that theory.

The Denver defense held the Panthers to only 10 points after averaging more than 31 points per game during the regular season, best in the NFL. Denver’s ability to frustrate Newton and stymie his potent offense was the difference in the game and the reason for the victory.

Von Miller established himself as a household name during a matchup in which he dominated the Panthers offensive line. In addition to the sacks he caused, Miller harassed Newton the entire game, notching two hits on the athletic quarterback and batting down a pass.

Miller was the clear choice for Super Bowl MVP, marking only the second time in the past 13 years that a defensive player has claimed the honor. Miller is set to be a free agent this offseason, and if he avoids the franchise tag, he could become the highest paid defensive player in league history.

The Denver defense not only had to contain Newton, but also overcome the struggles of their own offense. Manning had two turnovers and only 141 yards passing. In fact, the only two touchdowns the Broncos scored were off two Carolina fumbles, one that was recovered in the end zone and another on the Carolina 4 yard line.

The Carolina defense turned in an elite performance as well. Linebacker Luke Kuechly had a game-high 10 tackles to go with a sack, and second year defensive end Kony Ealy notched three sacks and an interception. Had the Panthers won the game, Ealy would likely have been the MVP.

Many people will remember this game as being an ugly one to watch, but I think that impression is simply a product of the way the game has changed. With the emphasis on offense over the past decade, fans have been spoiled with high-scoring games.

However, what this game lacked in prolific offense, it more than made up for with ridiculous defense. Both teams battered the opposing quarterback en route to the most combined sacks ever in a Super Bowl.

Each team has different questions to answer going into the offseason, but assuming Denver can bring back Miller, both defenses should be elite again to start next year.

Unfortunately, I have that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get every year when I realize another football season is over. At least I can remember that from opening kickoff to the final seconds of the Super Bowl, I enjoyed the opportunity to watch strong defense from both teams. And it provided a glimmer of hope that the old-school brand of football I grew up loving might still have a place in the modern NFL.

Brandon Niles is a longtime fan of football and scotch, and has been writing about sports for the past decade. He is a fantasy football scout for 4for4 Fantasy Football and is co-host of the 2 Guys Podcast.

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