SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Two years ago, the high-powered Broncos offense was run out of MetLife Stadium in a 35-point embarrassment in Super Bowl XLVIII against the No. 1 defense of the Seattle Seahawks.
Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway set out to remake the Broncos defense in the wake of that debacle. On Sunday night, that makeover came to full fruition.
The Broncos, with the league’s No. 1 defense, forced four turnovers and sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton seven times, swarming Carolina, 24-10, in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium for their third championship in a record-tying eight appearances and first in 17 years.
The Broncos were prepared for the high-flying Panthers offense, hounding Newton all game. The Broncos took the opening drive and kicked a field goal — and they never trailed or were tied again.
The game was a defensive slugfest with both offenses struggling to move the ball and score points. The Broncos nearly became the first team to win a Super Bowl without scoring an offensive touchdown but finally did so with 3:08 to play.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had just enough in his 39-year-old tank, completing 13 of 23 passes for 141 yards against a stout Panthers defense. But the win brought him an elusive second Super Bowl title in most likely the final game of his Hall of Fame career.
But Manning knew what spurred the Broncos to the championship.
“I’m just glad I’m on the same team as our defense and glad I don’t have play against them. … No question our defense led the way,” Manning said.
It fulfilled a promise by Elway, who told Manning he would do “everything in my power,” to help the quarterback end his career with a second championship. That included giving the Broncos the kind of defense Manning has never had before.
Von Miller led the defensive charge, forcing two strip fumbles of Newton, the first of which was recovered by Malik Jackson in the end zone for a touchdown to give the Broncos a 10-0 lead with 6:27 to play in the first quarter.
Miller then capped his MVP performance when he knocked the ball free from Newton in the waning minutes and T.J. Ward recovered at the Panthers 4-yard line.
Three plays later, after a defensive holding penalty, C.J. Anderson plowed into the end zone on a 2-yard run with 3:08 to play. The Broncos went for two and Manning found Benny Fowler to make it 24-10 and seal it.