The Denver Broncos finally have their chance at redemption. Two years ago the Broncos faced a young Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks and got pummeled. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves as Manning’s new opposition is even better than Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks as the new-school Carolina Panthers have a more balanced and harder offense to prepare for.
But let’s focus on last Sunday’s two match-up games and review what happened between the two.
The Manning versus Brady match-up was the game to watch, as it resembled their past classic games together. Although the game did not live up the hype that everyone was expecting, Brady was on a role as he took 20 hits (more than any quarterback in a single game all season) yet still managed to connect with Rob Gronkowski on a 40-yard strike to convert on fourth-and-10, and followed that up with an improvised touchdown to convert fourth-and-goal, giving the Patriots a chance to tie with 12 seconds remaining. If it wasn’t for Denver’s Aqib Talib tipping Brady’s pass that was intended for Julian Edelman, the game’s outcome could have resulted in a different Super Bowl match-up.
Throughout the whole game the Broncos did an excellent job by getting in the face of the Patriots offensive line and thus threw off Brady’s timing, forcing him to throw without thinking first. As a result, Brady recorded the lowest passer rating by any quarterback in the post-season after five years with a rating of 18.1 due to being off target and throwing inaccurate passes.
The legend Peyton Manning has become the first quarterback in NFL history to play in multiple Super Bowls for two different teams and should be commended for his hard efforts on Sunday.
Demonstrating his greatness with one of the most impressive touchdowns of his season, Manning was also shut down for the final three quarters. His inability to pick up a first down on a pair of late fourth-quarter possessions gave Brady a chance for a potential game-tying touchdown.
It was easy to see Broncos coach Gary Kubiak’s excitement as the NFL’s unclear catch rule came into play during a fourth-quarter challenge. Patriots Amendola caught a pass, took several steps and had the ball stripped just after his knee touched down. Head official Ed Hochuli ruled that Amendola’s catch was not actually a catch, saving Kubiak from a fresh set of downs for the Patriots inside the Broncos’ 10-yard line.
In Carolina, it seemed to be an extremely one-sided game as the Panthers destroyed the Arizona Cardinals 49-15. The Carolina offense was on fire the whole game as Ted Ginn, Corey Brown, and Greg Olsen all made big catches. Despite injuries, the secondary did an excellent job on the pass rush to force Arizona to make mistakes.
It seemed as if Cam Newton was the star of the show last Sunday night as he walked away with 335 yards on only 28 attempts while also rushing himself for 47 yards and two touchdown scores thus proving his fearlessness as a quarterback.
Carson Palmer, on the other hand, had six turnovers throughout the game. As the Cardinals did their best to play catch-up, Palmer did not look good from the beginning on the game; This was the second straight week that Palmer played poorly in terms of not seeing the field well, forcing passes and missing routine plays.
Overall, Palmer dropped back to pass 43 times. He finished with 66 adjusted net yards, according to Pro Football Reference. Palmer averaged 8.41 per drop backs during regular season, and 1.53 in this game. Palmer certainly came up small, but the Panthers defence deserves a ton of credit for making his life miserable.
NFL writer Gregg Rosenthal commented on the game saying, “The Panthers are thought of as a defense-first team, but the offense has led the way in the playoffs. The offensive line gave Newton all day to throw and they still present the most complex running game in the league. Corey Brown’s 86-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 17-0 lead in first quarter felt like a backbreaker. They made the second-best team in the NFL look like slappies.”
Super Bowl 50 between the Broncos and Panthers will be on Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. live from San Francisco.
Assistant Sports Editor