Like all sports championships, the Super Bowl doesn’t just feature the best of the best in this sport of football. The game stirs the pot in ways you’d never dream, until it happens.
Here’s what Super Bowl 50 gave us.
7. Defense has taken a licking, but keeps on ticking. As in recent Super Bowls, elite defenses played special roles. We know that the offenses have gotten a lot of legislative help from commissioner and other NFL directors in recent years. Lots of exciting plays and broken records followed.
But Carolina and Denver were two of the best units all season long, and to the end. This showed in the form of the quarterbacks’ performances. People are complaining about the game’s lack of entertainment. Defense had a lot to do with that, so some of us want it both ways—backslapping the D, while spitting upon the offensive units’ efforts. The most relevant stat making rounds is: Three of the last four titles were won by the team with the best defense.
6. Peyton Manning can end on a high, possibly fueled by the Budweiser he mentioned postgame. His voice oozed satisfaction, probably thinking of all the people who had trashed him, of the HGH investigation, of all the predictions that he’d lose by blowout (again). Manning shamelessly name-checked a particular beer at least two times, his wife, the kids… and, oh yeah, “the man upstairs.” Then he was smooched by the Papa John’s pizza guy. Do people actually call him ‘Papa John’?
5. The expertise of the sports talking head has been humbled. All of the Vegas-obsessed smart alecks were up to their ankles in foot. Yea, I was wrong, BUT… was the word on Hangover Monday, in talk radio and other media. Peyton Manning was carried! Carried by the Denver defense! Hey, that looks like a Lombardi Trophy he’s holding. Manning didn’t win! Carolina gave it away. Six of one, half-dozen of another. He’s diminished. A painful echo of his former self we wish would go away. He may leave, but the smarm factory hitched, at least for one day. No ‘what if’ scenario, no backhanded concession, can change what we saw. We’re still right more often than YOU, average fan! Not today…
4. Cam Newton reverted to form, at least for now. The Panthers were 17-1 going into the title game. All of the season was a coronation, in hindsight: Cam’s vision quest. Carolina was rarely tested all year, until Denver got a quick lead and flipped Superman back into Clark Kent.
We remember the sullen reactions from a few years ago, and it resurfaced during the press conference. Stung at being called a sore loser, Cam engaged with us again. “Show me a good loser, I show you a loser,” he said later in the week, waxing philosophic. “Who’s to say your way [of acting]is better than my way?” Newton has already set the template for 2016—how will he respond next season? Don’t expect any seismic shifts.
3. Wade Phillips and Gary Kubiak got some vindication, too. Phillips, perhaps the Super Bowl MVP, was savaged by critics during his head coaching stint in Dallas. “He’s almost too good to be a coordinator, but not enough to be a successful head coach,” a commentator said Monday. Kubiak was pink-slipped by Houston a few years ago, after a number of seasons trying to top the AFC with QB Matt Schaub.
2. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch picked the perfect time to bow out. A photo of hanging cleats and peace sign on social media marked the occasion. Super Bowl weekend covers a lot of stories that, on other days, would be larger. Derek Fisher, coach of the New York Knicks, got canned before Manning even went to bed Monday. No one cared, because sports fans were still reeling from watching favored Carolina get pounded.
A local radio station broadcast the Super Bowl. I listened to play-by-play and acted the game out in my imagination. So, fortunately (1), I missed all the TV commercials and halftime antics. You ought to try it sometime.