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Broncos to face the Panthers at Super Bowl 50

Posted Jan 25, 2016

The Carolina Panthers booked their place alongside Denver at Super Bowl 50 by decimating the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC title game, not that their players were thinking that far ahead just yet.

And then there were two. The Carolina Panthers booked their place alongside Denver at Super Bowl 50 by decimating the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC title game, not that their players were thinking that far ahead just yet. Quarterback Cam Newton only found out live on air that the Broncos had won the AFC game hours earlier.

“Oh man, playing The Sheriff,” said Newton as he contemplated the prospect of squaring off with Peyton Manning. Their quarterbacking duel - summed up by ESPN’s Dan Graziano as “New versus old. The Dab versus the Charleston” - will doubtless be one of the central themes of Super Bowl week.

Manning defied his many sceptics by outperforming Tom Brady on Sunday, connecting on 17 of 32 attempts for 176 yards, two touchdowns and, crucially, no interceptions, while his opponent completed fewer than 50% of his passes and got picked off twice. The Broncos quarterback continues to evade the question of retirement, but Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla was only expressing a commonly held view when he wrote that “This feels like the last rodeo”.

“It's a sentimental journey,” continued Kiszla. “[Manning] brought Marshall, his 4-year-old son, to the podium with him for the postgame news conference. The small boy wore an AFC championship cap three sizes too big and sang a little song, happily tagging behind his father as they walked down a long hallway to the stadium elevators.”

Marshall Manning was the star of the post-game festivities in Denver, but for all that his dad had outperformed expectations, nobody was really fooling themselves that Peyton had been the star of the Broncos’ win. It was a suffocating defense that carried Denver to their second Super Bowl in three years, and it is that same defense that the Panthers will be most anxious about in a fortnight’s time.

Carolina had been installed as the bookies’ favourites to lift the Lombardi trophy before they had even finished with Arizona, but the Charlotte Observer were quick to take stock of the challenge ahead. “Von Miller will be the Panthers’ No1 problem,” ran one headline.

“Officially Miller had 2 ½ sacks and an interception,” wrote Rick Bonnell underneath it. “Unofficially he was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s tormentor. Brady was hit 20 times in the Broncos’ 20-18 home victory in the AFC Championship Game. It seemed like Miller was responsible for about 18 of those hits.

“So, Miller now becomes the biggest worry for Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula heading into Super Bowl 50. If there is a more ferocious defender this side of, perhaps, J.J. Watt, I don’t know who he is.”

Three more things you might have missed

- Von Miller’s dance moves.

- The most impressive fan haircut you may see in a while.

- Cam Newton comes up with culinary analogy for Carolina’s success.

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