Before the AFC championship game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick answered a question about Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s diminished production this season by saying that he “would never, ever, ever underestimate” Manning.
The Panthers appear to be taking a similar approach as they prepare for Super Bowl 50. Coach Ron Rivera said that Manning is the “same guy” whose knowledge of the game gives him a strong understanding of the best ways to attack a defense. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is also anticipating a chess match with Manning and adds that he’s not discounting Manning’s arm either.
“He’s still got it,” Kuechly said, via the team’s website. “When you have surgeries like that everyone is going to try to discredit you, but he’s still Peyton. He’s still got all the throws. I don’t care what anyone says. He’s still extremely intelligent, and he can put the ball where it needs to be. He’s been great his whole career, and he’s still great now.”
Manning’s numbers have been modest since returning to the lineup in the second half of Week 17, but he hasn’t thrown an interception after giving the ball away 17 times in the first nine games of the regular season. Continuing that trend against an opportunistic Panthers defense will be vital to Denver’s chances of winning the chess match and the Super Bowl.