The NFL has gone high-tech. New for this season, every player has a tracker embedded in his shoulder pads that collects data like velocity, distance traveled and proximity to opposing players. Zebra Technologies is the company behind the tech, and the insights they provide are letting fans see the game in a whole new light.
The stage is set for Super Bowl 50. The Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos will clash Feb. 7 for the right to be called world champions. To make it this far, they had to dispose of some tough competition. Here are the most impressive numbers from NFL Championship weekend.
*All stats courtesy of NFL.com
1. Ware and Miller are a Terrorizing Tandem
DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are two elite pass rushers, and the Broncos' game plan against New England included cutting these beasts loose. Ware and Miller rushed the quarterback a combined 75 times during the AFC Championship game, compared to 51 times against Pittsburgh and an average of 54.7 per game during the regular season. The pair wreaked non-stop havoc, combining for 3.5 sacks, 11 QB hits and 18 total pressures.
If the Broncos want to raise the Lombardi Trophy, they'll have to figure out a way for the dynamic duo of Miller and Ware to put pressure on Cam Newton.
2. Coming Up Short
The Panthers' stingy pass defense showed up once again during the NFC Championship, forcing Carson Palmer into some terrible throws. Palmer finished with four interceptions, and when he did complete passes, they were rarely for big yardage. His completions were caught an average of 5.62 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
For comparison, Newton's completions were caught an average of 10.3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage—nearly twice the distance of Palmer's. Given the explosive nature of Carolina's offense, relying on short passes in the Super Bowl probably won't get it done for Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
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3. Scrambling Sheriff
Running isn't really Peyton Manning's thing. His rushing totals over the last three seasons read like a weather report in Antartica: -31 in 2013, -24 in 2014 and -6 in 2015. However, Manning made a crucial play with his feet in the AFC Championship, taking advantage of a hole in the defense and picking up a big first down.
Manning hit a top speed of 15.38mph, which was faster than any Patriots defender on the play. It was the first time since 2002 that he picked up a first down with his feet on a third-and-10 or longer. The Broncos picked up another first down on the drive, then punted to pin the Pats deep in their own territory. Since the margin of victory in the game was incredibly slim, who knows what would have happened if Manning had thrown the ball away instead of scrambling.
No one expects Manning to run the football in Super Bowl 50, but a play or two like this could ultimately have a huge impact on the outcome.
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