I've been a Denver Broncos fan for a long time. I guess it's because I had met former Broncos wide receiver, Lionel Taylor, back in the late 60s. In 1968, I graduated from the almost unheard of University in New Mexico, NM Highlands University. Highlands had a great athletic program during those days; we were NAIA National Champs (equivalent to NCAA D2 sports) in baseball for 3 consecutive years - 1966-68, and national champs in football in 1966 and 1967. In basketball we were ranked in the NAIA top 25 during my 3 years there, I was a junior college transfer. Lionel Taylor was a NMHU Cowboys graduate, and while with the (then) AFL Denver Broncos, he set many receiving records. For example: in four consecutive years he caught over 100 plus passes per season. Post season, he would come to the campus and play pick-up basketball games with us. Taylor, a West Virginia product, also played basketball for Highlands as a student.
This past Sunday, the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers, 24 -10, in Super Bowl 50. There was a lot of speculation that the Panthers, led by 2015 MVP Quarterback Cam Newton, were going to be too much for the Broncos. The sports media felt Denver would have difficulty containing Newton. Some of the media went on to say that Manning's old school quarterback style could not compete with Newton's ability to scramble and run with the ball. Not to mention Newton’s enormous size for a quarterback, he weighs over 250 pounds, has great speed, is shifty, and very difficult to contain.
Even though Denver's signature this season was being the best defense in the NFL, the majority in the sports media did not feel the Broncos had an answer for Cam Newton. Quite frankly, as a Broncos fan, neither did I. There was also the feeling that the Panthers would be able to put the stop to 18-year veteran QB Peyton Manning. As it is in sports, none of the above happened, because Denver did stop Newton, and Carolina had difficulty keeping Peyton from doing his magic. Even though he lacked the big plays, Manning did capitalize on scoring opportunities, and obviously Newton struggled to get his team going. Broncos’ field goal kicker, Kicker Brandon McManus came through again - 3 for 3 in Super Bowl, and 10 for 10 in the playoffs.
Denver was lead by defensive specialist, linebacker Von Miller, who was awarded the rare honor as a linebacker to be chosen as SB 50 MVP. Historically, not too many defensive players are honored with that award. Miller came up with one big play after another throughout the game, he gave Cam Newton fits, and at times it seemed five or six Von Millers were on the field.
As rumors fly, the oldest quarterback in Super Bowl history at 39, Peyton Manning has yet to decide on his future for another season in pro football. I have been a Manning fan for years, I love to watch him steer his team with his audibles while over the center, or engineering his strategy out of the shotgun, to me, he's a great field general, his knowledge of the game is second to none. I envision him as a coach someday. Someone just said to me that he has nothing to prove as a coach. It's not about proving anything; it's about his love for the game and for the challenge that would be presented to him as a football mastermind. My hope is to see him pursue that career; it's not about money, because he obviously doesn't need more money. It's about the love of the game, a game that has done so much for him since he was a kid; it's in his blood.
I can surely relate to that, I feel I am an untouched resource, at the age of 71, when it comes to coaching basketball. Manning's knowledge and experience would be wasted, if allowed to become dormant in his retirement. Only time will tell if he will be enticed to coach with offers from the pro or college ranks.
As for Cam Newton walking out on the media during his post-game interview - I won't make any excuses for what he did, in general he made a mistake, but he was flustered and the media can be annoying with some of their idiotic questions. Frustration is always part of being on the losing side, and humility is not an easy characteristic for guys like Newton. He has had the reputation of being a showboat and known for being very cocky in his demeanor, there are times that he has been called a “hotdog”. I will not justify what he did by walking out, but I am of the opinion that this guy is the Magic Johnson of pro football - he's big and strong, and at 6’5”, 250 plus pounds he has the mobility of a 5’8” point guard. Most of the time he's super human, but there comes a time when guys like him have to accept some of the humility that comes in defeat. He missed that chance, for sure, but we haven't seen the end of this super athlete, and in the near future he will bring that Super Bowl ring to Carolina. To me, he's impressive, and mostly I think he's a good-natured guy having fun by playing his favorite game. Someone like him can be misunderstood and it's usually by those who will never be an athlete of his stature.
I know it's been said, like the title of this column, that defense wins championships. Denver put on a great display of holding down the prolific offense of the Carolina Panthers. Man for man the Panthers were the better team on paper. The Broncos proved that, not only does good defense prevail, but also playing against the odds can be the motivation to play above ones capabilities.
I like the playoffs’ format of the NFL. It's like the NCAA's March Madness of college basketball, one game determines advancement and if you win you're in, but if you lose, you go home. What amazes me is that I have seen 50 Super Bowls. Wow, am I old!