How the Panthers are trying to move past Super Bowl 50
While Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak is trying to get his players to forget about Super Bowl 50 and focus on a new challenge with a new team, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is doing the exact same thing.
"It's a new season,” said Rivera to begin his conference call with Denver media. "Everyone talks about rematch, revenge — No! This is 2016. I believe Von Miller already told everybody: [These are] new teams. That's the truth of the matter. We're going forward."
A Super Bowl loss is something that's hard to move past quickly, but Rivera's doing his best to do just that.
"We understand, we know who they are, we know what happened, but everyone wants to continue trying to hammer this as revenge," Rivera added. "To be quite frank, I told the players, 'Guys, it's over. This is not the Hatfields and McCoys.'"
In trying to figure out how to advance after Super Bowl 50, Rivera looked to the Broncos. Not the 2015 Broncos, but the 2013 Broncos.
"I think the very first thing I did was I pointed to the Broncos," Rivera said. "I said, 'They're the team that two years ago got beat in New York by the Seattle Seahawks and then two years later, they're back in the Super Bowl.' And I said, 'If we do anything, let's learn from this experience.' And that's what we've tried to do, is emphasize that this was a great, tremendous learning experience."
So Rivera went back and read the press clippings. He read the Broncos' press clippings from after Super Bowl XLVIII, and then he read the Seahawks' press clippings from after their loss to New England in Super Bowl XLIX. And he called some of his friends, like Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach John Madden and Baseball Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, to ask for their advice.
"I tried to learn some lessons that I could use to help our football team," Rivera concluded. "So we'll see if it pays off and hopefully we can give ourselves opportunities and chances."
An offense refreshed
As both teams re-focus with different teams from when they last faced one another, Carolina's offense is hoping they'll have more success as a healthier group.
The return of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who missed all of the 2015 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, is expected to give the Panthers offense a top-notch receiving threat with his size and speed. Benjamin had posted a promising rookie season with 1,008 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
"Probably the biggest thing more so than anything else is we've got Kelvin Benjamin back on the field," Rivera said. "With the different things we can do with him, the different combination of wide receivers we can throw out there, hopefully that creates some matchup stuff."
But that's not the only thing the Panthers are hoping to improve upon against the Broncos on offense.
In Super Bowl 50, Denver largely stuffed Carolina's rushing attack. Running back Jonathan Stewart had led the team with 989 rushing yards in the regular season, but mustered just 29 yards on 12 carries. He was briefly injured during the first quarter, but he returned shortly afterward and scored a touchdown by going over the top at the goal line.
After falling behind early, the Panthers offense, which totaled the second-most rushing yards in 2015, had to abandon the run and totaled just 36 rushing yards in the second half of Super Bowl 50.
"That's one thing going into the game on Thursday that we have to do better: Run the football and run the football early," quarterback Cam Newton said. "Those guys are very stout up front. We understand that and know that. We will be ready for it.”