SANTA CLARA, Calif. —** There were no surprises in Super Bowl 50 for the Broncos if you had been watching them this season. Stonewalling rush defense, dominant pressure from the inside and outside pass rushers, and opportunistic game-changing takeaways were the hallmarks of this team throughout the year, and that didn't change in the 24-10 victory over the Panthers at Levi's Stadium.
"It's been a grind all season," tight end Owen Daniels said. "It's been one of those seasons: a lot of close games and we find different ways to win. So it was another one of those games, a microcosm of the season right there."
Get a look at some of the best photos from the Broncos victory and World Championship at Super Bowl 50!
The Broncos followed the same defensive game-plan tenets that had gotten them to the championship game, and it paid off at perhaps the best level all season. Defensively, Denver tied a Super Bowl record with seven sacks, and two of those were strip-sacks that the Broncos jumped on for two fumble recoveries. Then there was another lost fumble from fullback Mike Tolbert and an interception from T.J. Ward.
There were no secrets to how the Broncos planned to do that, though. All season the cornerbacks had been relied upon for one-on-one coverage while the most talented three-technique defensive end tandem and duo of Pro Bowl outside linebackers closed in on quarterbacks. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips did not stray from that, and the Panthers offensive line was unable to provide quarterback Cam Newton with the protection needed to let the receivers break off their routes.
"That was the game plan," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "Load the box, force [them] to throw the ball. Can you throw the ball? That was the game plan: Load the box, one-on-one man outside. They got a couple big plays, but I feel like me, [CB Aqib] Talib and [CB Bradley] Roby, we were able to come back and make more plays to shut them down."
A disappointed Newton noted as much: "Nothing different. […] Got outplayed."
And it was the same for the offense, which subsisted on a healthy diet of hard-nosed running and play-action passing. It was easy to overlook the Panthers' stout defense because of how effective their offense had been previously, but the Broncos stretched the defense on the ground and eventually put the game out of reach with a C.J. Anderson touchdown with 3:08 left in the game.
"We're relentless. We grind. We work hard," running back C.J. Anderson said. "That's what it's been for 16, 17, 18, 19 games. Regular season through the playoffs – that's all it's been is us grinding, us playing for each other, us loving each other as teammates. It feels good to be where we're at right now."