Peyton Manning — assuming he’s going out — is going out in style.
He’s also going out without having to do all that much.
The Broncos quarterback got his perfect finish, leading his team to a 24-10 win over the Panthers in Super Bowl 50, though it was a dominant defense that did the hard work.
The Broncos harassed Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throughout the night, sacking him six times, forcing three turnovers and limiting him to something far less than the kind of MVP performances he’s turned in all year.
That meant all Manning had to do was not mess it up and enjoy the moment. Even a pair of turnovers weren’t enough to spoil things, as the five-time Most Valuable Player won his second Super Bowl title.
The Broncos didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the game was well-decided, a late touchdown run by C.J. Anderson, Manning did throw a two-point conversion, a coda for a wonderful career which wasn’t reflected in anything else he did the rest of the night.
Manning finished the game a meager 13-of-23 passing for 141 yards, allowing others to carry him to a title. But while it was similar in theme to John Elway’s get-out-of-the-way-and-hand-it-to-Terrell-Davis strategy to win a pair of Super Bowl titles to end his career, many quarterbacks could have won this game.
For the Panthers, the loss unravels a storybook season, which included a 14-0 start, a single loss and plowing through the NFC playoffs with relative ease.
But their lack of dependable pass-catching targets came back to haunt them, as Jerricho Cotchery and Ted Ginn were plagued by drops, which is unusual for Cotchery. The Panthers were able to cover up the loss of Kelvin Benjamin to a training camp ACL for the entire season, but struggled to get anyone open throughout the night.
That included tight end Greg Olsen, who was not much of a factor throughout the night, thanks to a Broncos defense designed to take him out (with cornerback Aqib Talib often in coverage).
The Panthers also made numerous special teams miscues, from a missed field goal to allowing a 64-yard punt return when it appeared they thought Jordan Norwood had called for a fair catch.
Those mistakes were too much to overcome, regardless of who was quarterbacking the other team.