Super Bowl 50 is history and the Denver Broncos have won their third Lombardi Trophy thanks to a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers. While the game was a close one, it was also a very sloppy contest dominated by defense and marked by mistakes and penalties.
The Broncos opened the game with a field goal-drive to take an early 3-0 lead. The Panthers were unable to answer and turned the ball over on their second possession when eventual game MVP Von Miller sacked Cam Newton and the quarterback's fumble was recovered in the endzone by Malik Jackson to give Denver a 10-0 lead.
The Panthers eventually found their offensive rhythm in the second quarter, when the team drove 73 yards in 9 plays, capped by a Jonathan Stewart 1-yard touchdown run to cut Denver's lead to three points. However, despite momentum shifting towards Carolina, the Broncos were able to increase their lead because of another Panthers' mistake: special teams did not play to the whistle and allowed Denver's Jordan Norwood to return a punt 61-yards, leading to another field goal.
With the score 13-7 in the AFC champion's favor, both teams traded turnovers. First Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert lost a fumble, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, likely playing in his last NFL game, threw an interception on the ensuing drive. Neither offense was able to take advantage of the turnovers and the two teams entered halftime with a 6-point Denver lead.
The third quarter saw more miscues by the Panthers. While the team was able to gain yardage, it was unable to score points. The first Carolina drive ended with a missed field goal, the second one with an interception. Denver, in the meantime, was able to score another field goal on its first possession but up 16-7 early in the fourth quarter gave the ball away again when Manning lost a fumble. The Panthers were able to convert the takeaway into three points.
Down six points late in the fourth quarter, the NFC champions had chances to take the lead but Carolina turned the ball over another time. Von Miller registered another sack and forced fumble to give Denver the ball inside the Panthers' 5-yard line. The Broncos were able to turn the takeaway into eight points to get a 24-10 lead. As was the case all game long, Carolina was unable to get back into the game.
In the end, the team that made the fewest mistakes won. It was the Broncos, led by their dominating defense. Congratulations to the NFL champions.
We are officially on to 2016. New England's quest to re-take the title is already underway. Free agency starts in a little more than a month and the Patriots, without any high-profile free agents, need to ensure to a) keep the core of their very talented defense together and b) focus on their offensive line and running game in order to get back to the NFL's promised land.