Peyton Manning may not be done, but we are (for now) from here in San Francisco. Thanks for spending Super Bowl Sunday with us, and congrats to the Broncos for what was a truly great defensive performance. Have a good night, everybody!
Where does the Broncos’ upset Super Bowl win rank all time? I heard the phrase “heavily favored” thrown around — in reference to the Carolina Panthers, of course — a handful of times this week in San Francisco, so the game will probably be lumped in with some of the other bigger upsets in Super Bowl history. And according to our Elo ratings, it ranks seventh all-time:
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But there’s a retrospective case to be made that it wasn’t actually an upset at all. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but if these teams played again next week at a neutral site, Elo would actually have Denver favored — the 24-10 victory nudged the Broncos’ rating ahead of Carolina’s, 1703 to 1698.
And it’s official: Peyton Manning is now 14-13 in the playoffs and 2-2 in Super Bowls. What a career.
And that’s the ballgame!
There had only been one quarterback to lead two different teams to NFL championships. That was Norm Van Brocklin, who won a title with the Rams in 1951, and then with the Eagles in 1960. After that game, Van Brocklin retired.
Manning is now the second, and the first to do so during the Super Bowl era. And, given his incredible legacy, it would hardly be surprising if he retires after winning this game. If so, he’ll join that other famous Broncos quarterback, John Elway, as the only quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl in his final game.
This has been Manning’s worst statistical season, and he was hardly impressive in the Super Bowl. But it would be a fitting end for Manning — a man who has carried his teams perhaps more than any other player in history — to win one final championship in his last game on the backs of his great teammates.
Peyton Manning once took a team with one of the worst defenses in football — granted, a better group when they had a healthy Bob Sanders — to a Super Bowl crown. So the symmetry of a well-past-his-prime (but good enough to win) Manning being carried to a championship, in what might be the final game of his career, by one of the best defenses ever is sure to not be lost on anyone tonight.
The Broncos are poised to win despite going 1-13 on third downs tonight. Is Manning’s career over? Another metric that suggests it should be – which has been confirmed by the play tonight – is Manning’s catastrophic drop in third-down passing:
There have been just two touchdowns in this year’s Super Bowl: a 0-yard fumble return by Malik Jackson, and a 1-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Stewart. Unsurprisingly, that’s the fewest yards gained on touchdowns in Super Bowl history. The current record belongs to Super Bowl III, which featured just two touchdowns: a four-yard run by New York Jet Matt Snell, and a one-yard run by Baltimore Colt Jerry Hill. The table below shows the number of touchdowns, and how many yards were gained on all touchdowns scored in each Super Bowl.
During the regular season, Peyton Manning had thrown seven of his 17 interceptions when nursing a one-score lead or less. You have to think the distinct possibility he might do that again might have played a role in Denver’s ultra-conservative playcalling last drive.
There have been nine defensive players who have won a Super Bowl MVP award. In all but two cases, that honor was the result of multiple turnovers.
Four Super Bowl MVPs (Chuck Howley, Jake Scott, Larry Brown, and Dexter Jackson) had two interceptions. Richard Dent had two forced fumbles when he was the MVP of Super Bowl XX, while Malcolm Smith of the Seahawks won the award when he had an interception (returned for a touchdown) and recovered a fumble.
That leaves just two other cases — and three players. The 2000 Ravens were defined by Ray Lewis, and he won the MVP award in that year’s Super Bowl despite not recording a sack, interception, forced fumble, or fumble recovery. The other instance was in Super Bowl XII, while Cowboys Harvey Martin and Randy White shared the award as Dallas overwhelmed the Broncos.
That may be an appropriate result tonight. Von Miller looks like the frontrunner for Super Bowl MVP, but 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble (even if it was the biggest play of the game so far) is pretty light by Super Bowl MVP standards. Of course, that’s why they play the fourth quarter.
Most amazing accomplishment?
Peyton Manning could end up being both the best quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl, and the worst.
Denver has now been outgained by 95 yards in the game thus far. Only four Super Bowls have ever been won by a team whose total yardage margin was worse than that.
The Broncos’ Brandon McManus has now been perfect on field goal attempts and has scored 10 of the Broncos 16 points, while the Panthers’ Graham Gano’s miss from 44 yards is a big reason why the Panthers are down two scores now instead of one (though obviously all counterfactuals are suspect).
McManus is a solidly above-average kicker, and contributed about 6 points to the Broncos between field goals and kickoffs this year. Gano is competent though likely a little below average. Here’s how all the kickers and Punters in the NFL stack up (complete table here):
That long completion from Newton to Philly Brown was a great catch, but almost all of the Panthers’ positive pass plays have been out of run sets. That time they had two tight ends in to block.
The Broncos have now scored three times on offense, all of them field goals. That’s pretty weak; during the regular season, 59 percent of the average NFL team’s scores were touchdowns. (Even the Panthers defense allowed a TD 62 percent of the time an opponent scored.) But the Broncos weren’t very good all season at converting scoring chances to 7 points instead of 3 — they ranked seventh-worst in football, notching a TD with only 52 percent of their offensive scores.
Board operator just flashed a “DE-FENSE” prompt for the full play clock on second down, and a “MAKE NOISE” for the whole clock on third. The stadium full of Broncos fans seemed amused, and the couple of Panthers fans here didn’t even try. Scattered applause for the incomplete on third. Poor Panthers fans.
Cam’s completion percent doesn’t look great, but on top of a few really stunning throws that have gone incomplete (most recently that screamer down the right sideline to Jerricho Cotchery), Newton has a few throwaways that would be a sack for any other quarterback. The Broncos are beating the hell out of him, but he’s been crazy impressive under duress, even without the best results.
Some of Carolina’s stats have been underwhelming for a 15-1 team, but that’s because the Panthers have not had to press down on the gas pedal because of large early leads. Before today, Carolina had outscored opponents by an incredible 193 points in the first halves of games. That was the second largest mark by any team since 1960, behind only the 2007 Patriots. And, had Carolina outscored Denver by 13 points in the first half, the Panthers would have set the new record.
Of course, instead, Carolina trailed 13-7 at halftime. In the previous season, Carolina was 3-8-1 at the end of November. Since that time, the Panthers have gone 22-2. But the Panthers largest halftime deficit during that 24-game stretch was just 4 points. That makes tonight’s 6-point margin the worst halftime deficit the team has faced in 25 games, dating back to a loss in Minnesota in November 2014.
Cam Newton just showed some life with that 45-yard completion, but at halftime this game was shaping up to feature some of the worst passing (according to passer rating) in Super Bowl history:
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To Chase’s point about four separate Broncos having a sack in the first half, remember that Denver built this defense despite spending an exorbitant amount of money on its very old quarterback.