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Seven key Broncos plays in the first half of Super Bowl 50

SANTA CLARA, Calif. --Beyond the Broncos' touchdown, they had seven key plays in the first half of Super Bowl 50 worth noting for their result and how they impacted momentum:

1. Peyton Manning hits Andre Caldwell for a 22-yard gain on third-and-4.

The biggest gain of the Broncos' first drive saw the Broncos go three-wide, with Caldwell using Josh Norman's aggression against him to patiently get downfield and get open. Norman was called for holding, which the Broncos declined, and the Broncos were in Carolina territory en route to a Brandon McManus 34-yard field goal.

2. Danny Trevathan shoots the gap on Carolina's first play.

For the Broncos to contain Carolina's offense, they had to start by taking the inside runs away. Trevathan got this off to a promising beginning by shooting through to hold Jonathan Stewart to a 2-yard gain, which set the stage for a three-and-out to open Denver's solid defensive first half.

Stewart had just 7 yards on six first-half carries, with nearly all of Carolina's running success coming to the outside.

3. Defense blows up the trick play.

Carolina had the football trailing 10-7 and momentum at the Denver 49 five minutes into the second quarter, and Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula dialed up some trickery with a lateral to Ted Ginn Jr. But the Broncos read it perfectly; no one abandoned downfield coverage, and Chris Harris Jr. came at Ginn for what would be ruled a sack. Carolina punted two snaps later, and the Broncos had preserved their lead.


  1. Darian Stewart stops momentum.**

Mike Tolbert's longest run of the first half ended in failure when Stewart jarred the football loose, allowing Trevathan to recover. This was crucial not only to halt a Panthers advance, but reverse the effects of a controversial unnecessary roughness call against Malik Jackson.

Jackson's call was controversial because Jackson was also hit after the whistle blew, but referee Clete Blakeman did not call offsetting penalties. With Stewart's hit, it was no harm, no foul.


  1. Jordan Norwood's Super Bowl-record punt return. **

The offense was stalling, but Norwood took care of that by racing up the right sideline with a 61-yard return. Carolina's players thought Norwood had called a fair catch, but gave him no space to make the play. But he grabbed it anyway and took off to move the offense into field-goal range, although a holding penalty on Louis Vasquez wiped out a fourth-and-1 conversion and forced Denver to settle for McManus' second field goal.

6. C.J. Anderson bursts for a 34-yard gain.

By breaking a Luke Kuechly tackle and using a block from Vernon Davis on Robert McClain, the run should have set the Broncos up to take a two-score lead. But Kony Ealy dropped into coverage and intercepted Manning three plays later, ending the threat.

7. DeMarcus Ware lowers the boom once more.

A 24-yard Newton-to-Devin Funchess connection get the Panthers moving and threatening to end the first half with a Graham Gano field goal, but Ware slammed the door shut on the opportunity with a blindside sack to preserve the 13-7 halftime edge.