Like it or not, the New England Patriots have been eliminated by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. It’s a tough pill to swallow but Bill Belichick is probably already planning offseason practices for the next playoff run.
Take a deep breath and soak in the 15 consecutive winning seasons in Foxboro. Ten out of those 15 seasons the Patriots have reached the AFC Championship game. New England has won more than ten games every single year since 2003. With the Broncos loss, their playoff record falls to 28-9 under Brady-Belichick. The Patriots have won a total of four Super Bowls in six appearances. They are quite possibly still in the midst of the most dominant run in the history of professional football. Life goes on.
Patriots fans couldn’t have a better Manning adversary to root for in the Super Bowl than Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. They just came off a 49-15 nuclear destruction of the Arizona Cardinals with a Cardinal roster that featured many Pro Bowl caliber players. The Panthers gained 476 yards compared to the Cardinals 287. Carolina had 324 yards through the air while rushing for 152. The Cats featured an incredible average of 7.2 yards per offensive play. On the defensive side of the ball they forced an incredible total of seven turnovers. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions.
In Denver, it is now or never: Peyton Manning’s engine is clunking, rattling, and running out of gas. The old Peyton is long gone. Down the stretch in the second half of the AFC Championship he led his team to five punts, one field goal and by some miracle still managed to move on to the Super Bowl. In the past two playoff games, the Broncos offense have scored a total of 43 points. Incredibly enough, 21 of the 43 points came from their kicker Brandon McManus.
The Broncos are tremendously over-matched. The high-flying, young, mobile, athletic Newton against the seasoned, crippled, aging Manning. In Peyton’s AFC Championship game he threw for a total of 145 yards while later on that night Newton totaled 335. The Broncos have a tremendous defense but simply have no answer to the offense firepower that the Panthers have. Brandon McManus is not going to win the Super Bowl with his foot and Manning is most certainly not with his arm. The Broncos will need a tremendous meltdown from the Panthers in order to contend in this game. Brandon McManus is certainly not going to win this Super Bowl by kicking field goals on every scoring drive.
At the end of the day Super Bowl 50 will be Peyton Manning’s obituary. The end to a fine career. A career upon which he was always second to Tom Brady. For Patriots fans it will be fun to watch Peyton’s last ride knowing that Tom Brady still has seasons left in the tank. Brady lost this battle but ultimately won the war against Manning. Until 2016, Patriots nation hopes the Panthers can keep pounding their way right through the end of the 4th quarter in Santa Clara.