Peyton Manning’s stellar career will have its fairytale ending if the Denver Broncos can take down the Carolina Panthers in Santa Clara tonight.
Manning spoke of Super Bowl 50 as possibly his final game and victory in the big dance would be a remarkable achievement given the task at hand.
The Panthers, led by the transcendent play of quarterback Cam Newton, lost just one regular season game and have been even more impressive in the playoffs.
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The NFL has come to love Newton and his dabbing pals, but here are five reasons why Denver will spoil their party and give Manning his storybook finish.
Tom Brady is probably still feeling the effects of the pounding he took two weeks ago.
Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and DeMarcus Ware gave the Patriots quarterback fits during the Broncos’ 20-18 AFC Championship win and, though the athletic Newton is a completely different proposition to Brady, the ability to pressure him is vital.
Denver’s defence is stacked on all three phases. From Miller and Ware rushing the passer, Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall locking up the middle and Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. shutting down receivers, the Broncos’ defence is capable of negating the league’s number one offence.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has had two weeks to come up with a winning gameplan and he possesses the personnel to execute it.
Panthers' zone-read struggles
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak’s zone-read offensive scheme is similar to that utilised by the Atlanta Falcons, who ran the ball down the Panthers’ throats in their Week 16 win against Ron Rivera’s team.
The Falcons had 30 rushing attempts and the offence was on the field for more than 35 minutes.
If the Panthers haven’t learned from their only loss of the season, Denver running backs C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman will see plenty of the ball and will keep Newton off the field.
Special teams edge
The Broncos certainly have the edge when it comes to the third phase of the game.
Denver’s special teams unit has been sneaky good this year. Against the Patriots a fortnight ago, punter Britton Colquitt had three punts land inside New England’s 12-yard line.
Only good things can happen if Manning continuously faces a short field and Newton a long one.
Seahawks loss still hurts
The Broncos were embarrassed on the biggest stage of all two years ago when the Seattle Seahawks ran riot in a 43-8 Super Bowl win.
Current players including Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Anderson and Trevathan were part of that humiliating defeat at MetLife Stadium and will do everything they can to avenge it.
Do it for Peyton and Ware
Manning hasn’t revealed to the public whether or not he will play next season but his comments to Bill Belichick after the AFC Championship game (“Hey listen, this might be my last rodeo. So it sure has been a pleasure”) suggest this is the last we will see Manning on a football field.
His team-mates may or may not know if the 39-year-old is coming back. But rest assured each and every one will be desperate to give Manning one more ring before he hangs up his cleats.
One storyline that has gone under the radar is the fact that outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware has never played in a Super Bowl.
At 33-years-old, Ware’s career is in its twilight and a common debate is whether the 11-year veteran will make the Hall of Fame.
A Super Bowl ring would put an end to that dispute.
Will Peyton Manning get his fairytale ending by winning the Super Bowl? Have your say in the comments section below!