Feb. 7, 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. It was assumed the past few years that this Super Bowl anniversary would be one of the biggest, if not the biggest of all time, but so far, the hype has been somewhat ho-hum, and in a pleasant surprise, what appears to be the focus of this anniversary is the astounding history of this great game.
Enjoy it while it lasts, football fans; it’s not every day you see images and videos from some of the earliest, greatest games of football of all time. National Football League (NFL) films just recently dug up the rare footage of the very first Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and none other than the Kansas City Chiefs. This anniversary game parallels the contest’s history and features two teams that represent the past and future of the NFL and are about as different as you can get both on and off the field: the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.
There is absolutely nothing pretty about the way the Denver Broncos have won games this football season. However, the fact of the matter is that they do still win and have won enough to make it to the Superbowl. Every single week, this 12-4 team gets another “W” from the most unlikely of places on their schedule. From their week-two win in Kansas City with a last-second “scoop-and-score” off of a Jamaal Charles fumble, to their week-six overtime win at Cleveland, to their week-11 overtime win against the Patriots with a 48-yard touchdown run from backup running back C.J. Anderson, it has been a roller coaster season for the Broncos.
Their average margin of victory has only been 3.7 points, without even discussing their back-and-forth quarterback tag-team duo. They have been completely carried this far by their defense, widely regarded as the best in the NFL. Statistically, they allow the fewest opponent yards per game of any NFL defense, and they rank top five in fewest opponent points per game.
Football fans saw this defense on display against the future Hall-Of-Famer Tom Brady in this year’s American Football Conference (AFC) championship game as Denver knocked Brady down 14 times, sacked him four times and intercepted him twice. This was statistically the worst playoff game of the four-time champion’s career. The Patriot’s offensive line was not prepared for the Bronco’s defense, so it will be interesting to see if the Panther’s offensive line has what it takes to withhold the Bronco’s intimidating pass rush.
Not only have the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton lit up the field every week en route to their historic 15-1 record, they made it look easy. Whether it was by land or by air, Most Valuable Player (MVP) frontrunner Newton had a touchdown in literally every game of the season. He accounted for 40 total touchdowns, 35 passing, five rushing and almost 4,500 yards of total offense. In three games, he threw five touchdown passes. This was all after losing his number one receiver for the season to a torn ACL.
The Panthers dominated the NFL this year, with their average margin of victory at 12 points. Not surprisingly, this accompanied boasting the NFL’s highest scoring offense and best turnover ratio of any team this season. It has seemed all too easy for the Panthers, and they will try to capitalize on their hard-earned momentum this Sunday in San Francisco.
Some key matchups to watch for on this Super Bowl Sunday are Carolina’s offensive tackles Michael Oher and Mike Remmers trying to protect Newton from Denver’s pro bowl pass rushers Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. Another promising matchup is Panthers linebacker and former defensive player of the year Luke Kuechly who has had a pick-six in each of Carolina’s last two games, reading and watching the eyes of future Hall-Of-Famer and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Finally, if there is anything besides “the dab” we have learned from the Panthers’ 2015 season, it’s that anyone matched up with defensive player of the year frontrunner Josh Norman is going to have a rough day. Expect the Carolina Corner to give either Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders a Super Bowl to forget.
The Las Vegas odd-makers currently have Carolina as a six-point favorite over the Denver Broncos. These odds-makers usually know what they’re talking about, as their chosen favorite has won 67 percent of Super Bowl matchups.
As this Super Bowl very well might be the last for Manning, it seems like it may very well also be just one of the first for Newton. It is about the most transparent passing-of-the-torch one will ever see in sports. So as we enjoy reminiscing the history of the Super Bowl and professional football, we also have an opportunity to look ahead, to look forward to future Super Bowls with a new elite quarterback on the scene. Whether you like the Panthers, the Broncos or the sport in general, enjoy the fanfare and history surrounding the pinnacle of one of America’s great pastimes.