A Tale of Two Teams: Broncos’ stifling Defense meets Panthers’ explosive Offense

Graphic by Katy Dayhoff

Jacob Jardel
Voices Editor
@JJardel_Writing

This year’s Super Bowl will be a tale of two vastly different teams.
Celebrating its golden anniversary, the NFL Championship will feature a matchup between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. Fans can tune in at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 7 to see the two powerhouses battle it out for the title.
Both teams battled their way into their positions in the playoffs, but they took different routes to get there.
The Broncos have been playoff mainstays ever since the addition of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway in the mid-1980s. Minus a few gaps, they have been able to make the postseason with strong running, staunch defense and good quarterback play.
Heading into Super Bowl 50, these principles still hold true for Denver. Elway has taken up front office responsibilities as the General Manager, and Peyton Manning will line up under center in his third championship.
According to an article from the “Washington Post” staff, Manning’s appearance in this Super Bowl mirrors the curtain call of Elway’s career.
“The Broncos legend walked away from the game after winning a Super Bowl,” the article said. “Now Manning, in the twilight of his career, may be able to do the same.”
However, his signal calling duties came under question at the start of the season. Manning has had an up and down season, with good games dispersed among a mix of average and uncharacteristically bad games.
Amid these woes, injuries and HGH allegations, he switched duties with Brock Osweiler until the younger quarterback’s injuries put Manning back as the starter. He made the most of it, securing the Broncos’ first-round bye and the second seed in the AFC.
The other main storyline of the Broncos’ season was a stifling defense reminiscent of the Orange Crush squad from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. However, instead of Tom Jackson and Randy Gadishar leading the charge, Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib patrol the sidelines for the league’s top-ranked defense.
With the formidable defense leading the way as Manning settled into the quarterback position, the Broncos came into the postseason with a 12-4 record, trailing only the Patriots in the AFC standings.
Their matchup in the AFC Divisional Round against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a defensive struggle that featured a total of two offensive Bronco touchdowns. At the end of the battle, the Broncos’ came on top 23-16.
The AFC Title Game pitted Manning against New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the pair’s 17th matchup – fifth in the playoffs. The Broncos pulled ahead and avoided numerous close calls to secure the 20-18 win, Manning’s third in five playoff appearances for Brady.
Squaring off against Manning and the Broncos are the upstart Carolina Panthers, making just their second Super Bowl appearance in the young franchise’s history.
Indeed, young is one of the best descriptors for the Panthers and has been since the team’s founding in 1995. Their lone deep playoff run came in 2004, when 28-year-old quarterback Jake Delhomme led Carolina to the NFC Championship before losing to New England 32-29.
This year’s Panthers team features one of the most explosive teams the league has seen in a long time with fifth-year quarterback under center. Newton appeared to reach his peak performance this season, amassing a QB rating of 99.4 with nearly 4,000 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns.
Newton would lead the league’s top scoring offense during a 14-game winning streak to start the season before finishing a league-best 15-1 record.
Adam Kilgore of the “Washington Post” felt as if Cam is at the top of his game and the NFL.
“Newton’s season would have been lacking without performing in the largest spectacle in American sports,” Kilgore said. “The real truth of it is, this year’s Super Bowl would have felt incomplete without Newton.”
However, Newton was not the only part of this Carolina team’s success. Their defense ranked sixth in the league in yards allowed, points allowed and sacks.
Playmakers Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman stood out from a defensive unit that led the NFL in takeaways and turnover differential.
Probably the most notable thing about this Carolina team, though, is their cohesion. The chemistry has shown throughout the season as they have dabbed on opponents in games and for the cameras post-game en route to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Their first game of the postseason came in the Divisional Round against two-time defending NFC champions Seattle.
The Panthers roared to an early 31-point lead at the end of the half and held on to prevent the Seahawks’ comeback to win 31-24.
The NFC Championship game against the second-seeded Arizona Cardinals proved to be less of a cardiac affair. Carolina stormed out to a 24-7 halftime advantage and continued on to win 49-15 to advance to the Super Bowl.
The two teams facing off have vastly different backgrounds and took very different roads to book their tickets to Santa Clara, Calif. this Sunday.
In the end, one team will finish their story with the Lombardi Trophy in hand.
It all depends on how the teams write their final chapters on the field.

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