It was strange to see the Carolina Panthers offense struggle so mightily to move the ball during Super Bowl 50 after they'd done so with such ease during the regular season and the playoffs. There were no deep shots from Cam Newton to Ted Ginn Jr.,and Greg Olsen struggled to find the open holes in the secondary like the ones he exploited all year long. The read-option plays from Cam and his running backs were stuffed. Turnovers hounded the Panthers at every turn.
So how did the Broncos do it, exactly? Yeah, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were in the backfield on almost every play, but how did they scheme so well to stifle one of the most creative and unpredictable offenses in the NFL?
According to Denver's defensive players, the Panthers were who they were on film. They didn't deviate from what they'd done all year, even when the Broncos stymied Newton and the Carolina offense on almost every down.
When safety T.J. Ward was asked whether the Panthers did anything he hadn't seen on film, he had this to say:
"No. We read them like a book."
Fellow safety Darian Stewart chimed in, saying "they did everything we watched on film."
Finally, linebacker Brandon Marshall wondered aloud why the Panthers simply refused to make adjustments.
"That's the crazy thing," he said. "You'd think with two weeks to prepare for the Super Bowl, they would do a new wrinkle. They did everything the same. Nothing new."
Lots of questions will hound the Panthers in the weeks to come, like "How could a team that ran through the regular season with such a shiny record (15-1) be held to 10 points? But these comments are illuminating. Perhaps the Panthers were simply too stubborn to make changes, even when things were going south so quickly.
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