By Steve Keating
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Reuters) – The Denver Broncos upset the top-seeded Carolina Panthers to win Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, giving quarterback Peyton Manning the chance to call a fairytale ending to his storied career.
The 24-10 win over the Panthers marked the third Super Bowl triumph for Denver and second for 39-year-old Manning, who was playing in what many expect to be his final game.
Manning, a five-time league most valuable player, added yet another line in the record books as he became the NFL’s oldest quarterback to play in a Super Bowl and first to reach 200 career wins.
It was the top ranked Denver defense, however, that can claim credit for the victory after holding the league’s highest-scoring offence to a single touchdown and 10 points.
The Denver defense was led by a rampaging Von Miller who forced Panthers quarterback Cam Newton into two fumbles that led to touchdowns and ultimately earned the outside linebacker Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honors.
“It just shows the type of team we have. It’s not just about offense, defense or special teams,” said Miller. “We came together as a whole.”
Manning, who has kept fans guessing about his playing future, refused to reveal his hand after the game as a shower of golden confetti fell on a capacity crowd of 71,000 at Levi’s Stadium.
“I got some good advice from (former Indianapolis coach) Tony Dungy. He said don’t make an emotional decision,” said Manning, who joins younger brother Eli Manning as a two-time Super Bowl champion. “It’s certainly been an emotional week for everybody.
“This has been a very emotional week, an emotional night, and I’ve got a couple of priorities. I’ll take some time to reflect. I’m going to drink a lot of beer tonight. Von Miller’s buying.”
Manning, who holds the record for most career touchdown passes, did not add to his total in what was his fourth Super Bowl, completing just 13 of 23 attempts for 141 yards.
Instead the Broncos leaned on a relentless defense that kept regular season MVP Newton in check, sacking the quarterback six times, intercepting him once and forcing two fumbles.
As if it had been specially ordered by the NFL just for the Super Bowl’s golden anniversary, Mother Nature delivered perfect party weather with blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures hovering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius).
While the Panthers entered the game almost a touchdown favorite the majority of the fans filing into Levi’s Stadium were decked out in Broncos orange.
The Broncos scored on their opening drive and never trailed, Brandon McManus connecting on a 34-yard field goal to leave the Carolina trailing for the first time this post-season.
Newton, as he does every game, began by saying a prayer then blowing a kiss to his mom, but it was the only thing that was routine as he was kept under constant pressure.
The Panthers quickly found themselves in an even deeper hole when Newton was stripped of the ball by Miller and Malik Jackson scooped it up in the end zone for a touchdown and 10-0 lead.
With the exception of 73-yard drive to start the second quarter that was capped by Jonathan Stewart’s massive leap from the one-yard line into the end zone, Newton was unable to get the Carolina offense in gear.
Manning was also unable to fire up a sputtering Denver attack, managing four first downs in a bone-jarring first half.
After Jordan Norwood’s electrifying 61-yard punt return, the longest in Super Bowl history, set up Denver on the Carolina 14 Manning could not get the ball into the end zone, settling again for a McManus field goal and 13-7 lead.
Carolina’s problems continued when Graham Gano’s 44-yard field goal attempt bounced the upright on the opening possession of the second half. Denver would not make the same mistake as McManus connected from the 30 shortly after.
Trailing 16-7, Carolina started the fourth quarter by forcing Manning to fumble and turning it into a 39-yard Gano field goal.
But Miller would end any hope of a Carolina comeback when he knocked the ball out of Newton’s hand on the Panthers four-yard line where the Denver offence took over, C.J. Anderson powering his way over from the two for 24-10 lead.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)
Photo: Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning hands off to C.J. Anderson (22) in the fourth quarter of the NFL’s Super Bowl 50 football game against the Carolina Panthers in Santa Clara, California February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam