SANTA CLARA, CALIF. — The Denver Broncos shocked the Carolina Panthers 24-10 as the Super Bowl closed out its first half-century on Sunday with an upset and a cliffhanger as Peyton Manning left everyone guessing about his future.
As a glittering shower of golden confetti fell on Levi’s Stadium, Manning appeared to have penned the fairytale ending to a Hall of Fame career ready to ride off into the sunset holding the Vince Lombardi trophy, the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl and the first to win championships for two franchises.
But a coy Manning refused to reveal his hand leaving open the possibility that the 39-year-old could remain part of the NFL next season even as the Super Bowl turns the corner and steams toward its centennial and a new era that includes a team back in Los Angeles.
“It’s certainly been an emotional week for everybody,” said Manning, amid the post-game celebrations. “I got some good advice from (former Indianapolis Colts coach) Tony Dungy. He said don’t make an emotional decision.
“I think that was good advice to kind of let this sink in.
“This has been a very emotional week, an emotional night and it is just beginning, I look forward to celebrating with my friends and family and I think I will take some time after that.”
The golden Super Bowl was much hyped as a passing of the baton with Manning the aging super star giving way to Panthers’ flashy quarterback Cam Newton, who did not live up to his Superman nickname against a top ranked Denver defense that proved to be his kryptonite.
Having claimed NFL most valuable player honors on Saturday and his 17-1 Panthers favored by nearly a touchdown, Newton’s coronation seemed almost certain.
“They just played better than us,” grumbled Newton. “I don’t know what you want me to say.
“They made more plays than us and that’s what it came down to.
“We turned the ball over, gave up sacks, threw errant passes. That’s it.”
A five-time league most valuable player, Manning’s performance will not be remembered as one of his best as the Denver offense managed just 194 yards, the fewest for a winning team in the Super Bowl.
Instead it was a relentless Denver defense that can claim credit for the victory holding the Panthers’ number one ranked offence — that averaged over 31 points a game during the regular season — to a single touchdown and field goal.
The Denver defense, which recorded seven sacks, was led by a rampaging Von Miller who forced Newton into two fumbles that were both converted into touchdowns earning the linebacker Super Bowl most valuable player honors.
“What our guys did, the way they played, they will be in the conversation,” said Broncos general manager John Elway, when asked if Denver’s defense is one of the best of all-time.
“He (Miller) has just gotten better and better. He has been unbelievable these playoffs.
“He has got something with Cam. He likes to get after Cam.”
That something can be traced back to the two players’ college careers.
Miller was the number two overall choice in the 2011 NFL draft out of Texas A&M, while Newton was taken first overall after winning a national college championship with Auburn.
“I thought at that time I could be number one, but (Carolina) didn’t see it that way. They took Cam Newton,” Miller said in the run-up to the National Football League’s title game.
Now Miller has something Newton does not — a Super Bowl championship.