Super Bowl 50 Wrap: Old school wins in more ways than one

WASHINGTON — Because of the Super Bowl-record 13-year age difference between starting QBs, Super Bowl 50 was billed as “Old School vs. New School.” It was cute, it was cliché — but not all the way correct.

While Peyton Manning and Cam Newton were polar opposites, the teams overall were not. The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are both predicated on defense and a reliable (yet inconsistent) rushing attack.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s been a Super Bowl recipe for generations.

Denver’s defense was nothing short of dominant. They shut down Newton — the newly minted MVP and Offensive Player of the Year — and turned in one of the great defensive performances in postseason history. The 315 yards allowed aren’t exactly eye-opening but when you take into account who they beat and how they beat them, it’s pretty remarkable.

The new Orange Crush faced Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Newton en route to their third Lombardi Trophy in franchise history … and sacked that great trio a combined 13 times, intercepted them three times, and allowed just one touchdown pass. One.

It all culminated in a great championship performance that kept a couple of pretty impressive trends intact: Super Bowl teams are 16-2 all-time when scoring a defensive touchdown, and #1 ranked defenses have a 10-2 record in the Super Bowl.

Maybe it was the white jerseys. Maybe it was the motivation of winning for their veteran leaders.  But they were the only team to put a stop to dabbing.

Don’t forget Carolina’s defense, though. Kony Ealy announced his presence to the football world, matching a Super Bowl-record with three of the Panthers’ five sacks and added an interception of Manning (who probably should have been picked off three other times). The Broncos averaged only 3.5 yards per play and couldn’t take advantage of red zone opportunities.

Yet it’s the quarterbacks drawing all the attention in the immediate aftermath of one of the Super Bowl’s great defensive struggles. On a night when these two teams combined for a Super Bowl-record 12 sacks, we’re talking about Cam’s press conference and Manning’s legacy.

First, this has to be said of Cam’s presser: He didn’t do his image any favors with that display. While I acknowledge he showed good sportsmanship by congratulating Manning on the field, Cam came off like a whiny front-runner and seemed to revert back to the immature kid who infamously set out a suggestion box for the media in 2012. Cam, you’re the MVP. You’re the next man up for the title of “Face of the League” once Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees all fade to black. Anyone can dab and flash a 1000-watt smile at 14-0 but a pro maintains swagger and grace in the face of a heart wrenching loss (even if proper context allows for some added empathy). Simply put, Superman’s strength can’t just be physical.

Manning, on the other hand, looks like he’s been sleeping in a Kryponite container for the last year and a half. Some want to believe this is the storybook ending to his Hall of Fame career when in reality he should be ashamed of how awful he was in what figures to be his final game. Manning was at the helm of an offense that generated a pedestrian 194 yards, went a Super Bowl worst 1-for-14 on 3rd down, and got their only offensive touchdown from a gift Cam Newton fumble at the 4 yard line.

Sadly his postgame performance was even worse; seeing him kiss Papa John and shill for Budweiser tested my gag reflex — and I’m not the only cantankerous blogger with that opinion.

Let’s give Peyton his props, though. At 39 years, 320 days old he’s the oldest starting QB to win a Super Bowl. He’s also the first starting QB to win a title with two different teams and also the first to notch 200 career wins. His legacy is secure.

But let’s be real, here. Even Trent Dilfer had better numbers than Peyton did Sunday.

(Which reminds me … my favorite moment was John Elway giving that “this one’s for Pat!” hat tip to the ailing Broncos owner, who famously said the same thing about his star QB when Elway won his first title 18 years ago. Ironically, Peyton had almost identical numbers as Elway did in that game. I wouldn’t bet on Manning returning to get back-to-back titles like his boss, though.)

It’s hard to get a sense of what Sunday’s result means for either team moving forward. Regardless of whether or not Manning chooses to return, Denver needs a long-term solution at QB. Brock Osweiler is a free agent and given the lack of outside options in free agency, is probably their best choice at the moment. Cam and Company will get Kelvin Benjamin and the rest of the injured Panthers back in 2016, but Super Bowl hangovers are real.

All we know is that the new school notion of riding an elite QB to a championship is no longer the norm — and “defense wins championships” has graduated from age old adage to football principle.

Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on

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