Super Bowl Preview: Can NFL’s Stingiest Defense Stop Its Highest Scoring Offense?

Cam Newton
The Associated Press

Super Bowl 50: Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos, 6:30 PM ET on CBS, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton dominat3ed this season, putting up MVP-type numbers. However, he hasn’t faced a defense on Denver’s level this campaign. Can he continue his tour de force against this exceptional unit?

“I don’t think people know how dominant we can be,” said Broncos cornerback Chris Harris.

“I think we can be one of the best defenses to ever play,” believes Broncos defensive tackle Derek Wolfe.

The Broncos’ defense might not have a weakness.

It all starts with their dynamic pair of edge pass rushers, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. They possess a lot more in their arsenal than just speed.

“Honestly both of them have a very, very large package when it comes to their different moves,” said Panthers right tackle Mike Remmers. “They have a lot of different stuff. They have speed, they have strength, they can bull rush, they have quick, inside moves. You just have to be ready for anything. A lot of guys, a lot of teams you play, they kind of have one or two moves that they go to. But these guys really have it all.”

And don’t sleep on their inside rushers, Wolfe and Malik Jackson.

“They do a nice job of penetrating and getting an inside push, taking away the quarterbacks ability to step into a throw,” said Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

And Denver is also loaded in the secondary. Just ask Broncos star receiver Demaryius Thomas, who faces them every day in practice.

“It wasn’t easy—not one day,” Thomas said. “I feel like they’re the best in the game. They go man-to-man every game, and back down from no one.”

The Denver defenders know one of their biggest challenges will be dealing with Newton’s scrambling ability.

During the season, the Panthers limited Newton’s running plays to try and keep him healthy. On Super Bowl Sunday, there will be no limits.

“From here on out, it is a no holds barred,” Rivera said. “There really is no next game. The approach has to be we’re willing to do things we need to do. We’ll have him do things that we want him to do for us and give us the best opportunity to win.”

Ware doesn’t think the challenge lies in Newton’s elusiveness, but instead in his sheer size—6-foot-5, 250  pounds—and strength.

“I don’t think that the challenge of getting to Cam Newton is the deal, it’s taking him down,” Ware said.

The Panthers’ defense won’t have to worry about Broncos QB Peyton Manning running. You are more likely to see a Unicorn.

He does all his work from the pocket. While his feet aren’t racing, his mind always is.

“Everybody knows how intelligent he is, how well he prepares, and what he can do at the line of scrimmage to put his team in a successful position based off of what teams are doing on defense,” said Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. “So you have to do a good job of not letting him see things and not let him get comfortable back there because he has seen just about everything thrown at him.”

“He’s still dangerous because he can spread the ball around like no other,” said Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis

You can get fooled by Manning’s eye manipulation.

“He’s good at looking guys off and moving linebackers and safeties based on his vision, so I’m going to have to do a good job of playing my responsibilities,” Kuechly said.

There are a lot of questions about Manning’s arm strength. A foot injury took away some velocity early in the season, but after sitting out six games to rest, Thomas feels Manning’s arm has rebounded.

“Now he’s healthy and you can see a difference,” Thomas said. “He was able to step through, throw the ball with all his strength. Before you know he had foot problems and it was hard to, it was tough to put pressure on it, but now you can see he’s good.”

While the two marquee quarterbacks get a lion’s share of the attention, the game will probably be decided by one of these two outstanding defenses.

While Las Vegas favors the Panthers by 5.5 points, this game clearly could go either way.