…well actually, I know I am. I was in the minority of those who predicted the Broncos would win. I’m not exactly claiming I was alone in the wilderness on this one, as many writers and talking heads called the same outcome – but we were in the minority. The reason I thought the Broncos would win the game was two-fold; the Broncos’ pass rush and the Panther’s pass protection.
For some reason, most of the media had played Cam up to be Superman. And let me interrupt myself here by making it clear, I am not knocking Cam Newton at all. He won the regular season MVP, deservedly so. He was very difficult to stop all season long and in the playoffs, and presented a fairly unique challenge. But somehow the bulk of the media ignored that the Falcons handled this “unstoppable” team, 20-13. Cam was only 17-30 in that game. More importantly, Newton was sacked 33 times in the regular season. That’s a higher rate per pass attempt than the “immobile” Peyton Manning, by the way.
Att Sacks Pct
Newton 495 33 6.67
Manning 331 16 4.83
Osweiler 275 23 8.36
Just so you can see, it isn’t that Denver’s O-line is impregnable, it’s that Peyton was hard to sack. Anyway, yes, I’m well aware that Peyton got dropped by the Panthers five times, threw more than a few poor balls, even fumbled. The Panthers played a great game on defense.
Unfortunately for them, the Broncos were even better. They compiled 52 sacks in the regular season, and added 7 more in their playoff run to the Big Game. So how is it a surprise they got to Cam? I’ll admit, I didn’t expect them to sack “Superman” six times. They also picked him off once, forced him to fumble twice, and held him to a pretty unspectacular 18-41. And if that sounds like I’m dogging Cam, I’m not. They did to the Panthers exactly what they did to the Patriots. Ton Brady gets rid of the ball faster than anyone, yet Von Miller and his merry wrecking crew were in his face that entire game. Cam gets rid of the ball pretty quickly, but not as fast as Tom. Cam was sacked 33 times in the regular season. So how and where did this narrative of Cam being unstoppable arise?
I’ll tell you what I think. I think that the Panthers got so little respect all season long, that when they finally blew out the Cardinals, a lot of the media felt compelled to flip back as hard as they could, and proclaimed this team as a heavy favorite. Going into this game, Cam was obviously the better quarterback, so at one level, it makes sense. Despite his stats, Cam was the better quarterback in the Super Bowl, too. Cam got away from several sacks, sheerly on his wits and athletic ability. The running game all but disappeared, too. So basically, it was Newton vs the Broncos D, and that’s a tough play. If Peyton had been playing against his own D, you could add a couple more sacks to that whipping.
Again, I am not dogging Cam. With luck, he and the Panthers will be back – although there are no guarantees; just ask Dan Marino. But neither Super Bowl MVP Von Miller nor the rest of the ferocious Denver D was going to be denied tonight. So all the Cam haters can keep their hate in check – well, they won’t of course, but they should. Newton was about the only guy who showed up on offense for the Panthers; just as Tom Brady discovered, one person cannot beat eleven, Hall of Famer or not.
By the way, I also stated that I believed Peyron would manage to shake off the past two years of accumulated injuries; that certainly didn’t happen. As he stated, he’s no longer the lead singer, but he can solo a few times here and there. Tonight, Von Miller took the lead, and crushed it.
I may be in the minority, but here’s what I think: while Cam isn’t Superman, he isn’t a bumbling Clark Kent either. He’s an extraordinary football player who ran into an extraordinary defense. He’ll be back; I’m sure he’d just as soon never see Von Miller across from him again, though.