This wasn’t how Peyton Manning dreamed of walking away — if he’s walking away — but he enjoyed it just the same.
Manning won his second Super Bowl ring despite the Denver Broncos scoring only one offensive touchdown — with 3:08 remaining on a 4-yard drive. Instead, Denver’s top-ranked defense, led by linebacker Von Miller, overwhelmed the Carolina Panthers.
Wade Phillips’ defense had seven sacks and forced four turnovers in a 24-10 upset in Super Bowl 50.
“That’s the type of defense we were playing all year long,” Miller said.
It was a first Super Bowl title for Phillips, the Cowboys’ former head coach, the first for Gary Kubiak, a former Texas A&M quarterback, as a head coach and the first for linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who spent nine seasons in Dallas.
“This was an opportunity just for us to seize it,” said Ware, in his 11th season. “We really talked about it when we were in the locker room, saying, ‘It’s there for the taking.’ It’s the team that has the most faith going out there that’s going to win.”
It was the second championship for Manning, who now has as many rings as his brother Eli. In so doing, Manning became the first quarterback to lead two different teams to Super Bowl titles.
Manning, 39, didn’t announce his retirement after the game, but it’s hard to imagine him playing another game. Likely, Manning walks off into the sunset as his general manager John Elway did after the franchise’s last title 17 years ago.
“I’ll take some time to reflect,” Manning said. “I have a couple of priorities first. I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family. I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight. I promise you that. I’m going to take care of those things first, and say a little prayer to thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity. I’m just very grateful.”
Manning completed 13 of 23 passes for 141 yards with no touchdowns, an interception and a 56.6 passer rating. In four Super Bowls, Manning finished 2-2, completing 103 of 155 passes for 1,125 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions.
But Sunday was Manning’s 200th career victory, and he owns most of the league’s major passing records.
“Peyton, I don’t know if this was your last rodeo, but it was one heck of a ride, and we thank you for the ride,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Manning on the podium after the game.
While Manning basked in the spotlight, Miller stole the show.
“Von’s buying,” Manning said.
The Broncos managed only 194 total yards, with 64 coming on their first drive, which resulted in a field goal. They converted their first third down and then went 0-for-14 the rest of the way.
Red-zone drives that reached the Carolina 14, 5 and 12 ended in three field goals.
That’s the only thing that kept Super Bowl 50 competitive for 56 minutes.
“That’s the kind of games we’ve been winning all year,” Kubiak said. “It was tough offensively, but defensively, we were tremendous. …It was just another grind-it-out win.”
Cam Newton had earned league MVP honors after leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record. He was as good or better in the team’s first two postseason games.
But the Broncos had his number Sunday.
He went 18-of-41 for 265 yards with no touchdowns, an interception and a 55.4 passer rating. He also lost two fumbles when Miller stripped him.
“I was definitely going for the ball,” Miller said. “That’s what coach Phillips has been preaching all year: We need turnovers. We need turnovers to win the game. We were able to get that today.”
Miller and the Broncos defense won it for owner Pat Bowlen, who has Alzheimer’s disease; they won it for Kubiak; they won it for Phillips; they won it for Ware; they won it for themselves.
“You just have to give it to all the guys, all the guys this whole season,” Ware said.
Even after the crowd of 71,088 had departed and the confetti had littered the floor, the Broncos hung around celebrating. It was going to be a long, fun night.