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Five from 50: An oral history of Super Bowl 50
Relive the Broncos’ third world championship with stories from five key players detailing how the team prepared for the game and how they clinched the win over the 15-1 Panthers and league MVP Cam Newton.
By Ben Swanson Feb 05, 2021

The Broncos' fate in Super Bowl 50 was far from preordained. The 2015 season had gone well, to be sure — Denver was the top seed in the AFC, after all. But it had not come easily. Quarterback Peyton Manning tore his plantar fascia and missed almost half the season after leading the Broncos to a 7-2 start.

As the offense tried to pick up the pieces with longtime backup Brock Osweiler leading the way, Denver's defense provided the reliable backbone upon which the team could rely. Manning ultimately returned in the season finale to help beat the Chargers to secure home-field advantage through the playoffs.

In the postseason, the Broncos eked out narrow victories over Pittsburgh and New England largely on the strength of their defense. The AFC Championship came down to the wire, as Denver only clinched the win after intercepting a two-point conversion attempt. Narrow win or not, though, the battle-tested Broncos were heading back to the Super Bowl.

I. 'You're going to understand why we are so good and why defense wins championships'

While the Broncos celebrated, the Carolina Panthers faced little resistance in their conference title game. Cam Newton, who led Carolina to a 15-1 regular-season record, accounted for four touchdowns in a blowout win over the Cardinals. After taking down the likes of Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger and their powerful offenses in the playoffs, Denver and their dominant defense would now prepare to face the league MVP and the Panthers, who had yet to trail in the playoffs.

Owen Daniels, tight end: They put together one of the better seasons in NFL history, specifically offensively speaking for them. … I feel like they were scoring 35 points a game during that year, and they continued to do it during the playoffs. I think that we knew what was out ahead of us. … We knew their defense had playmakers at every level, if you look at it. They had veteran guys, they had Pro Bowlers. They were a well-coached team. We knew it was going to be tough.

C.J. Anderson, running back: At that time, Luke Kuechly and K.K. — Kawann Short — and Mario Addison and Thomas Davis, Shaq [Thompson], Josh Norman, there were some really good big names on that defensive side of the football. You kind of think it was going to be a defensive game and whatever offense would get into a rhythm would have an opportunity to win it.

Daniels: I think we were [under]dogs going into that game. But the way our season had gone and our defense with the way they had played, they really made the season what it was for us. We did what we could offensively.

DeMarcus Ware, outside linebacker: It fell on deaf ears of who we were. During the Super Bowl, the whole week it was like, MVP Cam Newton's coming in. They're 15-1. You guys don't stand a chance!

Aqib Talib, cornerback: The dabbing was cool. We knew that was, like, they thing of the year. It was cute, you feel me? They had their little dance that the team did. It's camaraderie. Stuff like that, that builds chemistry throughout the unit.

Ware: I was like, Do you know we just played Tom Brady? Do y'all understand we just played Tom Brady, we just played Ben Roethlisberger?

I said, Y'all just wait until we get on the field. You're going to understand why we are so good and why defense wins championships.

Talib: When we found out we was playing them, we came in and I remember [Defensive Backs Coach] Joe [Woods] showing us just a little bit about them, right? And he showed us, like, 12 plays. And Joe was just like, Basically, that's all they plays. He showed us how simple they offense was, and he was like, Man, we can learn these 12 plays and we'll blow these guys out. … So we thought it was a super simple matchup. We knew it was going to be about, like, out-physicaling — being more physical than them guys, right? We ain't have no problem being more physical than nobody. So we loved that matchup, honestly.

Daniels: I think that first week when we were practicing in Denver, I think 'Kub' [head coach Gary Kubiak] had a great plan as far as how we were going to handle things. … The Broncos had experience with that the couple years prior playing in the Super Bowl, and then his experience from his past Super Bowl appearances. It was my first time, so the whole two weeks to get ready for a game and we're kind of putting the game plan in in that first week when we were in Denver, kind of got locked in and then built that confidence as we were going throughout that week.

Anderson: I was told that I was going to start maybe three days after we won the AFC Championship. [Running Backs] Coach [Eric] Studesville told me that I was going to lead the way. Him and Kubiak was proud of the way I was playing throughout the whole — really, the last half of the year — but especially throughout the postseason. So I was excited with that.

Talib: We did our prep in Denver and we put in all our stuff. … We had a great plan against them guys, because basically they ran the ball or they play-actioned and tried two-man routes. So we called basic coverages, and even in our basic coverages, we had the linebackers, like, green-dog blitzing. If the running backs stayed in, we had everybody blitz.

Jordan Norwood, wide receiver and punt return specialist: I played in big games in college and high school and things like that, so there is some carryover there, as far as just sports as sports. But I really think that just being comfortable at that point in who we were as a team, we had been through a lot offensively and had some games there where we shined and knew that our defense would play well no matter what. It's really just a situation where you go in and say, Yeah, we'll keep doing what we're doing. We're confident with the guys we've got in the locker room and the coaching staff and confident we can find a way to get this done.

Take an inside look at the Broncos' week leading up to Super Bowl 50, from the travel to the Bay Area to exclusive access at team practices and the final walkthrough with family in observance.

II. 'Thursday, we kind of knew we won the game'

The circumstances of this being the 50th Super Bowl made the event perhaps as big as it had ever been. Everything was gold for the occasion, and the matchup was worthy of it. Each side had great defenses with future Hall of Famers, and the two quarterbacks were prolific — Denver had the all-time passing leader in Peyton Manning, Carolina had an emerging superstar in Cam Newton. The two seemed to be at diametrically opposite ends of their careers — Manning's championship window was at its end, while Newton's appeared to just be opening. It made for a wild environment, especially for players who had not been there before, but the Broncos' focus remained as players stayed loose and confident.

Talib: By the time we got to San Fran, by the time we got to the Bay, we already knew the game plan and we was ready to go. I promise, we probably had three of our sharpest practices of the season in the Bay. And we knew we was ready to go.

Daniels: When we got to San Fran, it was about enjoying the experience. I think it was staying present, not worrying about what we had done during the year, not worrying about what could be, but enjoying going to Stanford every day to practice, enjoying being around our teammates for that week.

Ware: It was one of the best weeks of my life, because a lot of people say it was distractions, but for me it was a circus — and I was actually the entertainment! … I think they may have only given us 12 tickets [for family], but I figured out how to get 50. … It can be a distraction for some people that want to do the distracting things. But for me, it was a great family trip for me, and it was an experience of a lifetime.

Daniels: I kind of knew this might be the last time, the last season, I was going to be able to do it physically, because my knees … had given me about all they could over the years, and it was about time. I think that's about as reflective as I could be as a player at that time, to kind of be aware — not that I hadn't been before that, but really taking those moments for myself to be, like, Holy cow, man. You're here. You're really doing this thing. And, This is really Opening Night at the Super Bowl. … To be able to sit there and be able to talk to media and people from all over the world, to have that kind of be the culmination, for me, was an awesome, awesome experience.

Norwood: It was distractions everywhere. I think with guys like Peyton and Coach Kubiak that had been in those situations before, they knew that they had to let us enjoy some of that at the beginning of the week, and they did — kind of no questions asked, Enjoy yourself, and that kind of made it so that when it was time to work, we were all ready to work and ready to get this done.

Anderson: Thursday, we kind of knew we won the game — the game, I mean not the physical part of the game, but the mental part of the game. I remember Super Bowl 48, that Thursday before we played the Seahawks, we were complaining that we had to go on the bus, I think we had to travel, like, 20, 25 minutes away from our hotel — obviously, in New York traffic or Jersey traffic, you should say — and go do the same amount of interviews that we'd been doing, the whole team.

Thursday, we knew we had to do that with the same amount of time but there was no complaining, nothing at all. When we had a team meeting later that night, [then V.P. of Public Relations] Patrick Smyth told us the Panthers was complaining like we were complaining two years ago. And that's when we kind of knew mentally we were there for the right reasons, and we won the game from there. That's how we felt like. … Cam Newton and Thomas Davis was a couple clips that was put up in front of us, talking about they were complaining about leaving their hotel.

III. 'It was a different speech than typical'

With less than 24 hours before the Super Bowl, the team gathered together in a banquet hall in the Santa Clara Marriott, where the team was staying. Kubiak spoke to the team first, and then he turned things over to Manning and Ware, the Broncos' veteran captains. The speeches that followed were stunning, observers later recalled. Lingering over Manning's was the unsaid assumption that this would be his final game in the NFL. And Ware — who had never been to a conference title game before this season, not to mention a Super Bowl — instilled the gravity of the moment in his own way.

Ware: We knew that it was going to be Peyton's last year playing. Like, we knew that. We were sitting there waiting to see what he was actually going to say.

Norwood: It was a different speech than typical. I remember that … there was more dead silence than there was laughter, which you would usually have a little more giggles and chuckles when you hear somebody like Peyton speak. But you could feel that there was something else there. There was something stirring, a lot more emotion attached to the words.

Daniels: I remember Peyton naming guys off and outright praying for guys in the team meeting.

Anderson: Peyton just pretty much [said], Live the moment, but don't let the moment be too big. It's still another football game. We're here on a mission. … A lot of us played on that [Super Bowl] 48 team. He brought us back to 48 a lot, not letting the moment get too big, not being fundamentally sound, trusting our technique. We trained for this all the way since April.

Norwood: [It was] the kind of speech where you look at your neighbor and say, Is this Peyton's last game? afterwards, because you weren't even really sure about that at that point. It kind of gave the feeling that Let's go out there and leave it all on the field.

Talib: It was a heartfelt speech. It was so perfect, it almost had to be his last game. He gave the perfect speech. It almost had to be. We knew he was hurt or he injured or whatever he was in. We knew he was OG Peyton, and we knew he was banged up a little bit. We didn't expect him to play five more years, you know what I'm saying? We kind of had a feeling this might be his last one if we win this 'chip. Man, and we wanted to win it for him.

Ware: I remember me going up there and talking, and I'm like, Well, OK then, what am I actually going to do to follow this guy? What am I actually going to say?

Anderson: DeMarcus speaks but he's never super emotional about it — to the point where he wasn't crying or he wasn't in tears, but he was so fired up to play in this. Talking about it's his first Super Bowl after so many years.

Ware: I asked [John] Elway, like, two days before — I said, Listen, can you actually bring the trophy [a previous Lombardi Trophy] to the meeting? He was like, All right, I'll do that for you. … It was the AFC Championship [when he first brought it out for a speech] but … actually I brought it back and put it in the back of the room for that Super Bowl, too. Just a reminder. So I had it there, too. … I was like, Uh-uh, this is our good luck charm. We're bringing this damn thing.

I pulled the trophy out and I stuck it on the table, and I sat there and looked at it. And I looked at all the guys' eyes and seeing, just getting a gauge of, Do y'all want this or not? And I said, This year, our motto was iron sharpens iron, and another man sharpens another. And from all the ups and downs we went through, the fire that we had to go through, we have molded this steel — which is this Super Bowl trophy right here. This isn't ours, but we have an opportunity to live forever by building a piece of armor that we can take to battle with us every single day for the rest of our lives. … And I said, The Carolina Panthers are going to come here and try to steal our trophy. They don't know what we've been through. They don't know what we molded this season. And I said, It's time to go to battle, fellas. We have our armor right here already. We're prepared. Before you guys go to sleep tonight, I want for you to go touch this trophy. I just want you to touch it and go to bed, get some rest and I want you to dream about holding this trophy up at the end of the game.

Talib: I almost got emotional in there just from him and DeMarcus' speech.

Daniels: Just feeling that connection. The feeling of, like … right before you feel like you're getting emotional or you're going to cry a little bit or something that means so much that you're like, I kind of feel it in my chest. … You almost try to fight it a little bit, because it's a feeling that's not necessarily comfortable. But then … once you let it happen and you're like, Man, I'm feeling this, I know someone else is feeling this — that's the connection that we had that year.

Take an inside look at the moments from immediately before Super Bowl 50, from the Broncos' arrival at Levi's Stadium to observing the flyover during the national anthem..

IV. 'If I see somebody scared, they ain't going outside'

The day of the Super Bowl brought a mix of emotions for players. Everyone was confident in their preparation for the game, but the level of overall anticipation made for a pregame scene unlike any that the players had experienced.

Ware: I remember walking into the locker room, and, like, it was quiet. You know how Von [Miller] is. Von had music, usually had music playing, all the guys bouncing around. It was, like, quiet. … Everybody had their headphones on, like really focused. I was like, We're going to win this football game. There's no reason why we're not going to win this football game. Look how focused all these guys are. Peyton comes in — it was like the calm before the storm.

Anderson: I was ready to go. I harped on preparation. Not only did I harp on it, it was demanded from Peyton and Coach Studesville. … Hours before the game, pregame warmups, in the locker room, myself [and running back] Ronnie [Hillman], we were ourselves. We were ourselves. We were relaxed and ready to go.

Talib: Every pregame I'm always nervous. I'm always thinking of all my assignments … saying my prayers in my head and all that stuff. I'm always nervous pregame. But Super Bowl, it was definitely to the next level. Nervous is good. Mike Tyson said he'd be nervous all the way up until he hear the bell, you know what I'm saying? I'm telling my kids that — nervous means you care about the results, you care about what's going to happen, right?

Norwood: It's not the same [as any other game]. It's the biggest stage. You're trying to warm up for pregame warmups and you see Lada Gaga like [doing] her little mic check over there.

Talib: I think Roby or somebody ran into, like, Usher or somebody. We came out the tunnel and one of the DBs ran into somebody. … I remember there was so many celebrities on the field. It was star-studded. It was everything that you watch on TV and that you expect. It was all that. It was all that. It was probably more celebrities at that game on the field than at my second Super Bowl with the Rams. … Every time you look, you had to lock in. I'm trying to warm up and I just look and see somebody. Oh, s—, there go — nah, let me lock in. Let me lock in.

Ware: We were so prepared that year. A ritual that I always had is I would always slap the locker room nametag that said Ware on it. And I would say, God, it's me and you today. Let's go. … To be honest with you, I can't even remember nothing after that of being scared or feeling some type of way. It was like He really took over.

Talib: I remember pregame [in the] locker room, I was just walking around and, man, I'm looking in boys' eyes. I'm looking in boys' eyes — Who's scared? If I see somebody scared, they ain't going outside. I remember the whole time walking around the locker room. Pregame, I like to just be to myself, I kind of laugh and joke a little bit. For whatever reason, I was on that kind of vibe the whole time.

Ware: He did. … He was there and just saying, Are you ready? What's up? You get your mind right! Just going through every single person and saying, Are you ready?

Talib: I said, Von! Let me look in your eyes, bro. He said, What you see? Nothin'? I said, Nothin', bro! I promise. He was just like, Yeah. He was playing that Michael Jackson. Dunnn-duh-duh-dah-dahhhh-dah-da-da-dah. That was his first time playing that. I was like, Oh, yeah, he in the zone, bro. He had a great week of practice. He was healthy. He was feeling good. …

I felt like everybody had their job that day, and it was my job to make sure that we was on that — that we weren't going to get out-physicaled today. This a physical team, they finna run 12 plays on us and try to bully us. But nah, they finna know that we ain't on that. They ain't gonna smell no fear on this side. I felt like that's what God woke me up and put me on.

Ware: As soon as it was time to go, usually you hear a lot of clasps, like pads [clacking], pads popping [and normally] everybody's like, YEAHHH IT'S TIME TO GO. Everybody just, like, got up. It was the craziest thing to me. And we just walked out real quietly. And I'm like, Dude, we're like gladiators in a stadium. We're about to go to battle. And everybody's like, I'm going to die today. If we don't win this war, we're going to die today. I'm telling you, it was that feeling. It was that feeling of, It's time to go to battle, and we're going to win this thing.

V. 'Let's play the chess match'

After the national anthem sung by Lady Gaga, the Panthers won the coin toss and elected to defer. The Broncos would get the ball first, just as they had two years earlier. That time, Denver's opening drive turned disastrous when the shotgun snap on the first play flew past Manning and was recovered for a safety. Against Carolina, Manning and the Broncos could not afford a similar start.

Anderson: He just said, Breathe and relax. Take it one play at a time. I think the first play of the game, he hit Owen Daniels, but we picked up a blitz that we knew it was coming.

Daniels: I don't recall if this was the first play of the game back when the Broncos played in New York, but the snap over Peyton's head, right? That was the first play of the game or one of the first offensive series. That kind of swung the momentum instantly in the game, and I think Carolina was looking to do that right away — and we were ready for it.

Anderson: We didn't know it was going to come Play 1, but … that's when we knew we were locked in and ready to go.

Daniels: The blitz was coming right up the middle, and then I was right behind it. I had man coverage and I was able to get open on that. … I was like, Oh, shoot — this might be a big day for me again after the AFC Championship and going into the Super Bowl having a catch for 20 yards [on] the first play of the game. I was excited. And then it was tough day for us offensively. …

That gave us some momentum, definitely, on that drive to continue on and make some other big plays. I think Bubba Caldwell had a big catch on that drive and then Brandon [McManus] making that field goal, obviously. So that momentum was huge for us. We knew it was going to be kind of a grinder of a game. All points are important at that point.

Ware: I remember Peyton saying something before the game. He said, You know what, guys — I'm not going to score a lot of points. But one thing I'm not going to do — and think about this coming from Peyton — he said, I'm not going to lose this football game. I'm not going to lose this football game for us. And as a defense, we were like, We're going to get you the ball as many times as possible. We don't care if it's three points, a touchdown or it's a long drive to get us some rest. Let's play the chess match. And they were not used to that.

Daniels: It's easy to play from ahead, especially when you're a young, confident group like Carolina was, who really had been destroying the league the whole season. You get a little doubt in their mind, and that's what we wanted to sprinkle — we wanted to put a little bit of doubt in their mind moving forward in that game, because it's a lot to think about.

VI. 'I saw the ball on the ground and I'm like, Oh my God!'

After the Broncos took an early three-point lead, Denver's defense took over. It forced Carolina into a three-and-out, and then after an unsuccessful Broncos possession, the Panthers took over again at their own 15-yard line. On the first play of that drive, it looked like they got out of a tough spot when Newton threw to receiver Jerricho Cotchery for what would have been a gain of 30 yards had it not been ruled incomplete, as Cotchery bobbled the ball as he went to the ground. Carolina challenged the ruling, but the call on the field stood when the officials said they didn't have enough evidence to overturn it. Instead, the play set up Von Miller for the defining moment of his career.

Anderson: I do know the Cotchery catch — which was a catch, you know, but five years later it doesn't matter — but I do think the Cotchery catch was a big call. I think the next play, that's when we got the strip sack. I just remember … we're going over some adjustments with Coach E and the next thing I know, I hear the crowd.

Ware: I saw Von go around the outside, and I knew he was going to get the sack once he dipped around the dude. … I was the spy guy. So I wrapped around. Wherever Cam Newton went — if he went outside, I'd wrap around all the way to the outside. If he went underneath, I would wrap around into the B-gaps and just feel where he would be so he couldn't run and let Von and Malik [Jackson] and [Derek] Wolfe and those guys rush. So I said, That's what I need to do. That's my job: to make sure he doesn't run the football. And it got to a point to where I came underneath, I saw the ball on the ground and I'm like, Oh my God!

Talib: They was in Cover 4 on that side. And we was in Cover 2 on my side. And I know I got a great jam on Teddy Ginn or one of them receivers. I got a great jam. One-two. You want to get two steps and push him. I got the great two steps, I pushed him. By the time I looked, Von and them was getting the ball. They was attacking the ball in the end zone. It was a great call. We knew our four-man rush was going to do work, right? That was one of our four-man rushes early, and it hit home.

Anderson: As I hear the crowd scream, I look up and … DeMarcus and Malik are trying to jump on the ball.

Ware: Malik got there first and I jumped on Malik in the end zone. It was one of those things where I was like, Man, I wish I would have gotten that. It would have been a touchdown I scored in the Super Bowl.

Daniels: I think I was floating in the air once I saw that happen. I think the whole sideline was electric. I think at that moment right there, it just felt like we had it. We had it. That that was going to happen at that moment in time, to have that strip sack and we recover the ball in the end zone, I think Malik recovered it, we knew it was going to be a long day — a long day for Cam and the boys over there.

Talib: You could see it in [Newton's] face, his body language. You could see it. What he was saying back to us — we were talking a little noise to him. The trash he was talking back, the looks he was giving us. We was like, Yeah, he's hot. He mad. They can't get in that rhythm, he feel it. So, yeah, we can definitely feel that frustration all day.

Anderson: Plays were coming naturally to them throughout the season, when you watch them. I think we put them in a position where they had to [make plays]. … Instead of plays naturally happening, I think them trying to put themselves in position to overplay it, make some more plays.

Daniels: To have them backed up there and Von getting around the edge and make that play, it was pretty much over from that point forward. Obviously we had a lot of game left, but it just felt a little bit different at that point in time.

VII. 'I probably should have fair caught it'

Midway through the second quarter, the Broncos were clinging to a three-point lead. The double-digit advantage they had gained after Miller's strip-sack was at risk of being erased. After the opening possession when they got a field goal, Denver's offense mustered three consecutive three-and-outs. Then, after the defense halted the Panthers at around midfield and forced a punt, it looked like Carolina would pin Denver deep in their own territory. The Broncos needed a little luck to get out of this tight spot, and it would be up to Norwood to provide it.

Norwood: We went into the game knowing that offensively we were going to have to make some plays, we were going to have to make some plays on special teams, and we knew that our defense would come to play. …

I think Emmanuel [Sanders] went into the Super Bowl as kind of the number one on the depth chart punt return-wise. … He kind of turned to me and was like, Hey, do you want to get this one? And I was like, Yeah, of course, man. You say the word, you go tell Coach D [Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis].

It was just a play that the ball was punted pretty high and short. I thought I saw one of the gunners kind of go past me on my left, so I thought I had time to catch it. The ball hung up there a little bit longer than I thought. By the time I thought about fair catching it, I realized that I probably wouldn't have time to throw my hand up there and get it back down and field the ball successfully. I just kind of scrapped it said, I'll just field the ball and probably get tackled right away. I end up getting bumped a little bit before I even catch the ball or as I catch the ball. So as I catch it, I already feel like, OK, there's probably going to be a flag on them because they bumped me. And then you immediately kind of see them start to hold off on tackling me, and that's that. …

Things happen so quickly in the NFL and in games on the field. That's just how it works. As soon as one guy pulls up, you can make that decision in a quick second — Oh, I'm going to pull up, too. He must be right. He must have saw the fair catch. I didn't see it but he must have saw it. Those things kind of happen. So it doesn't really surprise me. I probably should have fair caught it. …

So I just ran down the sideline. And Coach D had kind of harped to us all week or those couple weeks leading up to the Super Bowl that nobody had ever scored a punt return for a touchdown in a Super Bowl. So that was kind of going through my head going down the sideline — Is this it? Am I going to get to the end zone? Obviously I came up short of the end zone, but still got into a little bit of a record book there and set us up for a field goal, so I think it worked out.

Anderson: We said we had to keep the ball. If we could get three, that would be great. We kept reminding ourselves, when we had those stints when we went three-and-out or didn't stay on the field on third down and we're punting, we understood that, Hey, with Cam Newton and his skill set — especially the way he was playing that season being the MVP — they could score at any [time]. So we kept reminding ourselves as an offense of that.

VIII. 'If you guys want this game, you need to go out there and get it'

Heading into halftime, the Broncos held a narrow lead. The strip-sack touchdown had given them some breathing room, but the Panthers then stormed back with a 73-yard touchdown drive to cut the lead back to three. After Norwood's punt return, Denver added three more points and managed to stifle Newton and Co. until they hit the halftime break. While Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Coldplay serenaded the crowd, the teams took advantage of the extended break to review the first half and prepare for the second.

Anderson: It's longer, which means you get to relax a little bit more.

Ware: I remember Aqib, he said, Hey, don't lose your s—! That's what he said: Don't lose your s—! We've got to stay up. Don't go to sleep. We've got this long-ass halftime, don't go to sleep! I remember Aqib saying that. Nobody went to sleep, I promise you that.

Anderson: We did our adjustments really early. … We went in, us as players, talked about what we saw first before our coaches came in. Coaches came in, we made adjustments.

Ware: [Defensive Coordinator] Wade [Phillips] came in, and usually he'd have a little speech. But he said, Um, I don't think there's too much to say, guys. If you guys want this game, you need to go out there and get it, and he just walked away. He just walked away. That's Wade. That's one of Wade's speeches, just straight up, cut and dry. If you want it, go out and get it.

Anderson: The last maybe eight, nine minutes of halftime we were joking around in the locker room being ourselves. I think that was the good thing about it. We tried to keep it as normal as possible. … And then Kubiak brought us up and [said], Hey, let's go finish this in 30 minutes.

IX. 'Thank God I got that one-on-one moment'

Despite Denver's confidence, they still were just barely keeping Carolina at bay. Early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers turned a fumble recovery into a field goal and were down just six points. With around four minutes left, Carolina faced a crucial third down from their own 25-yard line. Newton dropped back to pass, and then Miller again rushed around the edge and swiped the ball out of his hands. Safety T.J. Ward recovered the ball and returned it to the 4-yard line, practically ensuring victory this late in the game.

Ware: The first half, they didn't really double Von. And the second half, they started doubling Von and leaving me by myself because I got a little bit of a chip the first half. And that was my time. So it's like, you're either going to chip Von or you're going to chip DeMarcus. So it was a double-edged sword. Whichever one you want to deal with today, that's what you're going to have to deal with. And everything worked out like it should. I remember Von, he came to me and he said, Hey, I'm going to win this Super Bowl for you. That's what he said. I remember he said, I'm going to win this Super Bowl for you. You need this, bro. I said, I'll tell you what. You got 58 and you got 94. … You add those numbers together, there's 13 and 13. I said, We're the same guy today. ... We're the 13 archangels. I said, We need to go get at that quarterback today. … Once that [second strip-sack] happened, it was over.

Daniels: It was crazy because our defense created those turnovers during the game and we had short fields a bunch of times.

Norwood: They were just a great defense, and they showed that throughout the whole season. Their linebacking corps, their secondary, [they were] aggressive. And it's tough to complete passes and get too far down the field when you've got guys rushing the passer like they were. … So we knew that if we could get one play here and there, like we did get that late touchdown, that that could be enough.

Daniels: I think in the huddle, before C.J.'s score, it was like, Hey, guys. We get this in there and this thing might be over right now.

Anderson: We've got to score here. If we put it away here, giving our defense a 14-point lead, I think it was, obviously we had to go for two … if we got a chance to get in the end zone and put the game away there, it would be really tough, especially with our pass rushers. Now you're down 14, you've only got three or two minutes left. … Went three plays, got the [defensive pass interference] call, and then obviously the next play I had a chance to punch it in. …

Obviously we had a bust in the front, and then it's mano y mano. It's me and Luke Kuechly. And obviously Luke Kuechly is a hell of a player — I don't know how the Hall of Fame will work for him because he retired kind of early, but he definitely was on the brink if not still in the brink of a Hall of Fame-conversation career — but at that moment, it's just me and him. One thing that I knew about Luke Kuechly that I saw on tape, he just tackled high. I trust my ability enough. You know, one of my strengths is to break tackles and tackling me high is not an easy thing to do. … I kind of knew if I would have got lower and had a chance to drive in, that was going to be it because I knew he tackled high. Thank God I got that one-on-one moment and it worked out in my favor.

I definitely am [doing Mac Dre's Thizz Dance after the touchdown]. I'm back home. I'm in the Bay. Obviously Mac Dre was very close to my family. Him and my uncle grew up together, so they're very close to my family. … The first time I hit it was in Kansas City, where he passed away, on 'Sunday Night Football' the year before. Just in that moment, right at the corner of end zone with my mom and them on the other side, they're seeing it. I'm pretty sure they're doing the same thing. We had a chance to represent the hometown on the biggest stage.

Flip through photos from the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 victory over the Panthers.