The Raz Report: Defense Still Wins Championships

160207224407-40-super-bowl-2016-super-169By Marc Rasbury

Most of the chatter leading up to Super Bowl 50 focused on the two opposite ends of the quarterback spectrum, the Denver Broncos Peyton Manning and Carolina Panthers Cam Newton. When it was all said and done, the Broncos’ defense dominated the game, particularly the play of Von Miller who took home the MVP trophy after the Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10.

Newton and Manning were the lead stories going into the much talked about contest. All you heard for the past two weeks centered on whether Manning was going ride into the sunset if he engineered the biggest upset in the big game since his little brother, Eli, pulled off the impossible task of taking down the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Most of the media discussion centered on the off-the-field controversies of the regular season MVP Cam Newton.

After the final gun sounded, everybody had to acknowledge that the defenses, especially the Broncos were the stars of the show. After most head coaches were relieved of their duties after the end of the regular season, most teams hired offensive specialists including our beloved New York Giants last month. GMs looked to place an emphasis on offense. However, the old sentiment is that defense wins championships and that’s how it played out on Sunday.

Miller and DeMarcus Ware wreaked havoc on the high-powered Newton-led Panthers offense, which ran buckshot in the NFC playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl. Newton and the Panthers looked unstoppable up to this point. Carolina raced out to a 31-point lead in the Divisional Playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks eventually holding on to win 31-24. Then they just crushed the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC Championship game. In those two games, Newton truly looked unstoppable and there was no doubt that he was going to win the MVP. Yes, he did rub some folks the wrong way with his post touchdown antics. For those who did not appreciate his “Dapping” or “Superman” poses. Newton’s response was,” If you don’t want me to dance after a TD, keep me out of the end zone!”  Well, that is exactly what the Broncos did.

Wade Phillips’ defense put on a performance for the ages. Miller’s and Ware’s speed, strength and agility neutralized Newton all night long. The Broncos defense hounded the Carolina superstar throughout the game. They also shut down the Panthers running game. Newton was the team’s leading rusher for God’s sake. The Broncos played a disciplined scheme where the linebackers and defensive linemen contained Newton and his fellow rushers. The defensive backs also played tight coverage on the Panthers receivers.

Miller was Lawrence Taylor-like in this game with five solo tackles and two and half sacks. Miller was all over the field. He was in the backfield and he even dropped back in coverage defending WR Jerricho Cotchery on a 40-yard pass attempt. Ware also chipped in with two sacks of his own. Miller perhaps had the play of the game with Panthers trailing 16-10, he stripped Newton of the ball. The Broncos recovered the ball and that play led to the decisive TD.

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While watching the game, I thought to myself that Cam was not having fun out there. The Broncos’ defense frustrated the self proclaimed Superman to no end. For the most part, every time he dropped back to pass or rolled out to the sidelines, there was a Bronco in his face. It got to the point where Denver’s defense was so dominant that Head Coach Gary Kubiac trusted them over his Manning-led offense in the 4th quarter.

Now Newton’s teammates did not help him out either. Jerricho Cotchery, one of my favorite players when he was with the Jets, had two drops that could have change the course of the game. Cam got no help from his running game. He did not help his own cause when he did not try to recover a fumble on one the team’s last drives or his post-game press conference attitude.

Speaking of his post game press conference, come on dude! If you are going to bask in the praises of your MVP caliber season leading up to the Super Bowl, then you must face the music when things do not go your way. I know that was a difficult situation especially when Denver’s Cliff Harris was conducting an interview and criticizing him within an earshot of Cam’s press conference. I hope that Cam takes this as a lesson learned and grows from this.

Now in the other locker room, the Broncos won despite of Manning, who had a less than stellar game. He did not turn the ball over like his Panther counter part. He was the epitome of a game manager unlike how use to dominate games in the past. Now the only question is will he ride off into the sunset after winning the Super Bowl like his Team President, John Elway. He entered the game as one of the best QBs regardless of the outcome.

In age where most teams are looking for the next best genius on the offensive end, the Broncos showed that defense still wins championships. Last week I said that I felt the defense would have something to say as far as the outcome of this game. I just did not know that the Broncos defense would say it this loud.

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