Well, unless you were among those who had wagered on Denver and the points or the under, that was about the most hideous Super Bowl of all time last night. The Denver Broncos, behind a defensive touchdown, a 4 yard drive for another touchdown, three field goals and a tsunami of a defense, beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10, sending the regular-season MVP running for a box of Pampers after the game.
They say that defense wins championships, and at the most elite level of defense, that certainly seems to be the case. Since the 1985 Chicago Bears, eight times the top overall defense for a given season has appeared in the Super Bowl. Seven of those times, that defense has led its team to victory, the one exception being last season's Seattle team, which came within a play of making it a clean sweep. The Broncos' defense was so good that Denver won a game in which they had less than 200 yards of total offense....and they won BY FOURTEEN POINTS.
It will be interesting to see if defense wins television ratings battles, too. Of course, the Super Bowl will murder everything else that ran yesterday, but will the ratings increase over last season? I'm not so sure. At the establishment where I watched the game, many were leaving in the third quarter. We shall see.
Winners and losers, now...
4. Wade Phillips
A year ago, Wade Phillips was doing weekly hits with our morning show on SportsRadio 610 because nobody would hire him (except SportsRadio 610). Twenty-one teams filled defensive coordinator positions while Wade Phillips sat idly on the sidelines. (My first reaction to that number is "Damn, there's a lot of turnover at defensive coordinator. That's two thirds of the league!") On Sunday evening, he was capping a postseason in which he held three of the most prolific quarterbacks this season — Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Cam Newton — to one touchdown pass among the three of them, collectively. Just a masterful performance by his defense, and it will be interesting to see if the Phillips Hangover (the inevitable drop in Year 2 under Phillips that history tells us very well could happen) applies to this defense.
3. Peyton Manning
Forget about this being Peyton Manning's last game (likely) or that we finally don't have to listen to the inane "Eli has won more Super Bowls" jokes. Peyton Manning was freaking terrible last night. He had a QBR of 9.9. And he won the FREAKING SUPER BOWL. I have a rule where if you have a sub-double-digit QBR and win the biggest game of the season, you're ALWAYS a winner. Period.
2. Von Miller
Miller and Newton were the top two picks in the star-studded 2011 draft, and while Miller had been stupendous throughout the postseason, it was widely believed that Sunday would be a coronation for Newton. Instead, it was the next chapter in Miller's rise to "behind only J.J. Watt" on the list of defensive players a team would likely take if they disbursed the entire league. Miller had 2.5 sacks, including the sack-fumble that handed Denver its first touchdown of the game and a crucial double-digit lead early in the game. Miller was the MVP on Sunday, and it wasn't even close.
1. Gary Kubiak
Here's what I'll say about Gary Kubiak — I've talked to literally dozens of people over the past few months who have known him personally for years, some dating back to his high school and college days. I'm talking about former players of his, Texans employees and media members. I can't find one person among all of them who will say a bad thing about him. That's exceedingly rare. This truly appears to be one of those times where a good guy finished first, and I like that.
4. Terrell Owens
Shifting gears off the game for a paragraph, the football writers named their 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame class on Saturday night. Brett Favre was the only first ballot Hall of Famer, no surprise there. Reportedly, it took 19 seconds for the presentation on Favre's behalf to begin and end. On the other end of the spectrum, the candidacy of Terrell Owens was reportedly debated for 43 minutes, and in the end the writers decided that the third all-time leading receiver must sit in "time out" for at least one more year, while Marvin Harrison (who may or may not have shot a couple of people) goes into the Hall, punishment for years of Owens's burning bridges with every team he ever played for.
3. Mike Carey
There was a prop bet on Sunday in which you could wager on whether or not CBS's oft-ridiculed rules analyst, former referee Mike Carey, would get a replay review wrong in his analysis. YES was the underdog at +120, which analytically was a terrible value. (Carey's issue is way more in his delivery than in his accuracy, historically.) However, because Carey comes across like such a clown, I'm guessing people pounded +120, and if they did they came away happy, since Carey botched a replay review of a Jericho Cotchery drop in the first half, and we never heard from him again. If the next time we hear from him again is never, that's still too soon.
2. Jericho Cotchery
Speaking of Cotchery, if you're looking for one player who could get the "can't bring him back" sacrificial lamb treatment, I'd take a look at him. Cotchery had three crucial drops in the game, including the aforementioned one in the Carey paragraph that was followed shortly thereafter by the Newton fumble-six at the hands of Von Miller. Cotchery also dropped a pass that would have given the Panthers a goal to go situation down nine points. Instead, two plays later, Graham Gano missed a field goal off the upright.
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1. Cam Newton
All season long, we'd heard about how much fun Newton and the Panthers were having, as if that were a reason they were doing so well, as opposed to an effect of doing so well. Yeah, when you go 17-1, it's a lot of fun! People said we hadn't seen sulky Cam Newton anymore, as if that side of the league's MVP had somehow disappeared. We learned after the game, it's still very much there...
As it turns out, Cam Newton has become a better football player, but he is still just as big a baby when he loses.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.