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Denver Pass Rush Crushes Cam’s Confidence

The Denver Broncos may have won Super Bowl 50 by two touchdowns, but the game certainly wasn’t that close. The contest was always going to be decided by which offense handled it’s opposing defense better, and on Sunday, the strong-rushing, deep-throwing Panthers had no answer for the Broncos elite pass rush.

So much was evident from the opening Carolina drive. Many viewers might have been quick to dismiss Cam Newton’s early overthrows as nerves. But when Newton’s lack of chemistry with his receivers and running backs continued deep into the second quarter and beyond, it became apparent that Denver’s defensive game plan was taking shape.

After the Broncos pounced on a strip sack caused by unblockable Super Bowl MVP Von Miller to make it 10-0, Cam’s confidence was clearly shaken. For the rest of the game, he lacked the sort of determined, field general appearance at the line of scrimmage that had gotten his team this far.

Gone was his confident snap call and casual drop back as he surveyed the field. Cam’s arm remained a rocket, but it was often redirected by tips, pressure and quarterback hits from a defense that just kept coming.

Miller, with his 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles was a standout, and he was brilliantly complemented all game long by DeMarcus Ware’s 2 sacks and the stuffing capabilities of Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson on the inside.

But the game’s defining moment came on Miller’s second strip sack. With five minutes remaining and the Panthers down by 6, Newton lost control of the football. With the ball on the turf, Newton hesitated just long enough for a dog pile to form and force to ball to squirt out, eventually recovered by T.J. Ward to set up the game-sealing touchdown.

Newton’s refusal to try and reclaim possession was not a belief that the play might have been called incomplete. And even if it was, at some point a combination of desperation and adrenaline has to kick in, compelling you to dive head first into the turf and preserve any hope of keeping your team alive.

No, Cam made what could be politically correctly referred to as a “business decision.” The severe beating he had endured for the previous three hours ensured he would not risk one more big hit for a low-percentage return.

It’s tough to come to terms with, but it’s true: in the game’s biggest moment, the NFL’s MVP gave up. That’s not because he’s not a competitor. It’s because the Broncos had beaten all the competitiveness out of him.

And when the dust of Peyton Manning’s ride off into the sunset finally settles, only a series of Cam Newton-sized imprints will be all that remain visible on the Levi’s Stadium turf, until it all begins again in September.

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