Almanac Super Bowl 50 Preview: Should I Stay or Should I Go… into work?

At 10:30am (AEST) on Monday 8 February, Super Bowl 50 pits Carolina’s Panthers against the Denver Broncos in Santa Clara, California. If you have no affinity for either city and no colour preference (Carolina’s are Port Power-ish, Denver a GWS-Telstra cross – that should sort out a few of you) then the added spice you’re looking for is in the undying conflict; offensive skill and defensive will (insert dramatic music).

The Broncos have the no. 1 defence in the League, they are ‘Orange Crush’, R.E.M sang about, while the Panthers are known for exotic blitzes and have scored more points than any in the NFL this season. Flashy Quarterback, Cam Newton, has 22 touchdowns in his last 9 games with only 1 interception, for Carolina. His arm will be determinative of the issue, if not orange crushed.

Still not sold? There’s always the half-time show.

Let’s review the Conference title games, the road to Super Bowl.

 

AFC Championship Game – Denver 20 v. New England 18:

Last week, Denver knocked off New England under bright blue skies and in a bright orange stadium. This was Tom Brady’s 10th AFC championship game – the most ever – while Denver’s illustrious Quarterback, Peyton Manning, was in his 5th. On Super bowl Monday, Manning will be 45 days shy of his 40th birthday. Microphones captured him telling New England Coach Bill Belichick, ‘This might be my last rodeo’ .

AFC/NFC championship games are contests to revel in. Like AFL Preliminary finals, nothing’s left behind. If Emmanuel Sanders’ courageous, high catch (taking heat from Malcolm Butler) wasn’t persuasive, try Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins (113kg) leveling Ronnie Hillman (for a loss of one). It had a crunching sound to make you flinch, half a world away.

When Manning faked, spun and threw to Caldwell for a crowd-pleasing pick up of 15, there was a hint of an unsettled New England defence. Less than a minute later, Manning had his man; Owen Daniels open and up the middle for the touch down.

Brady returned and was rebutted at the line of scrimmage by the hand of Derek Wolfe. A couple of plays later, Wolfe brought Brady and the house down. There was no panic. Steven Jackson made it 7-6, but New England missed the extra point and momentum was punted back to the home team.

In the second, the Broncos’ coverage, and not enough protection, put Brady under mounting pressure – and then they reeled off the sacks. Manning was sacked too, but generally he seemed to have more time and be in less danger. When Manning went long and found Daniels it was 14-6. Personally, the needle on my meter flicked to ‘off the boil’, when a hesitating Brady ran into the back of his own offensive guard, Josh Kline, and from there was Easy Off Bam.

Brady was knocked down 15 times; the worst from Von Miller in the 3rd quarter would have hurt even if you weren’t 38 years old.

Although Denver looked better for longer, the Patriots remained within striking distance – and they had Brady; his 35-yard throw (with air of Hail Mary) was caught by Rob Gronkowski and then, in the final minute, they combined again for the touchdown (20-18).

The Pats had no time or choice but to go for the 2-point conversion. Brady scurried and shot gunned to Julian Edelman, but was intercepted and Denver’s defence celebrated a job well done.

 

NFC Championship Game – Carolina 49 v. Arizona 15:

The Panthers were fast starters, with 9 of the first 11 offensive plays. Newton’s pass was the tonic for Ginn Jr.’s cross-country run and 10-nil. A couple of plays on, deep on his own 5-yard line, Newton threw 35-yards to Corey Brown who slipped a defender and ran it all the way – an 86-yard completion! 17-0, Carolina had scored on their first 3 possessions and their fans had the party started.

Cam Newton appears to enjoy himself more than any player out there and backs it up with talent. An article in The Age last week presented his exuberant celebrations as polarizing[1] – scoring and then dancing, offensively offensive? Columnist, Scott Fowler writing in the Charlotte Observer wrote, ‘I see the Panthers as joyful and others see them as cocky, but this is a team with no intention of softening its rough edges[2].

It had me comparing celebrations between countries, such as the denounced Tredrea ‘bow’ (2007), our general aversion to show boatin’ contrary to their greatest show (boatin’) on earth. In his book ‘American Journeys’, Don Watson peered into the United States and wrote,

The cross, the high-five and the facelift all express the same conviction that life is winnable[3].

“We don’t care about the outside world looking in, the scrutiny, the trash-talking about our dancing or how much fun we’re having. I mean if you don’t want us to have fun, stop us.”

Panthers fullback, Mike Tolbert[4]

Their natural bravado would be unimaginable from an AFL player in his pre-game presser, at least intentionally. The deeply rooted sporting cultural difference is worth a study on Monday.

Recently Cam Newton was involved in a kerfuffle with a Seattle fan’s flag and, before it, a Green Bay banner. I have a dim recollection of Hulk Hogan once splitting the Iron Sheik’s flag across his knee. Sheik was theatrically upset, of course.

While not quite flag-gate, the imaginary line between players and fans is safest crossed with high-fives and gifting, rather than grabbing, merch – lest the slippery slope to Cantona karate-kick.

Back to the NFC game, it was a romp from there. The final score of 49-15 was the highest in a conference title game since Buffalo beat the Raiders (51-3) in 1990.

 

Super Bowl 50 – Carolina v Denver:

So who wins?

Carolina scored 31 (in a half) against Seattle and 49 against the Cardinals. Denver only conceded 34 in two play-off victories. The Broncos also led the league with 52 sacks this season. Can they rush, tackle and sack Newton, as often as they got Brady? What will Newton do in the magnitude of the Super Bowl, flash or crash?

“We are not going just to take pictures”, Newton said after the NFC. I like the confidence and teams that can put it on the board. Carolina.

I’m on sporting leave and will watch from a bar in inner-Melbourne.

 

 

 

[1] “Cam Newton: the most polarizing figure in Super Bowl 50”, The Age 28.1.2016.

[2] Fowler.S, “Hello World: meet the Carolina Panthers”, The Charlotte Observer 30.1.2016

[3] Watson. D, “American Journeys” Random House Australia 2008.

[4] Fowler.S, “Hello World: meet the Carolina Panthers”, The Charlotte Observer 30.1.2016

About Paul Campbell

Lawyer, left footer. Loves the Hawks and follows a few U.S sports.

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