In the week prior to Super Bowl 50, the NFL issued more than 400 pages of quotes from players, coaches, executives — everyone except the mascots, it seemed.
But the three short words that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton spoke at Super Bowl Opening Night would be the most telling of all.
Does the Denver Broncos’ defense remind you of any that you’ve faced in the NFC this season?
“No, not really,” Newton answered.
Lucky for Newton and the Panthers, they may never see another quite like linebacker Von Miller and his tag-team partners again.
In an era of pass-friendly rules and point-happy offenses, the Broncos reduced the No. 1 offense in the regular season to ashes in a methodical 24-10 victory at Levi’s Stadium. The Orange limited the Panthers to 315 yards and one touchdown and forced four turnovers.
Maybe the football world should have seen this coming. Of the 11 previous top-ranked defenses to play in the Super Bowl, nine came out winners.
“I think those guys average around 28-30 points a game, and them boys had 10 points,” cornerback Aquib Talib said. “We feel like we got the job done.”
The golden anniversary Super Bowl will forever be viewed in 3-D glasses — Denver, defense and dominance.
“We knew what we had in this group and we knew what we could do,” said defensive end Malik Jackson, whose fumble recovery gave his team an early 10-0 lead that held up the rest of the way. “We had to stop the No. 1 offense from doing anything. It feels awesome, just trying to take it all in.”
Now the talk isn’t about whether the Panthers rank among the best teams ever. It’s more about where the Broncos rank among the best defenses in modern history.
“I don’t like comparisons,” said Miller, who was selected Most Valuable Player in the game. “We played great tonight. I’m proud of every aspect of my guys. We started the season like that. It feels good when you set a goal like that and finish it.”
The pregame focus centered around Newton and counterpart Peyton Manning — the quarterback matchup was the first between No. 1 picks in the draft — but Miller and edge-rusher DeMarcus Ware stole the show.
“I wanted to say, ‘Look, we have one more time. This is the last one,’ ‘’ said safety T.J. Ward, who recovered a fumble and picked off a pass. “We are going to tell everybody that we are the best. This is the time that we are going to tell them they can’t do anything against our defense. Guess what? It is the last time we have to say it because we are world champs.”
Miller and Ware led a pass rush that harassed Newton constantly and took him down seven times. Miller had 2½ of the sacks and forced a fumble that Jackson turned into the first touchdown of the game.
“Peyton and DeMarcus and Coach [Wade] Phillips and all the guys have been [deserved this] their whole careers,” Miller said. “I did this for them. I put my neck on the line for those guys.”
Rather than concentrate on Newton, who was selected league MVP one night earlier, Phillips elected not to force the issue. Newton gained 310 total yards — 265 in the air, 45 on the ground — but he made few big plays and failed to scored a touchdown.
“Honestly, it really wasn’t an emphasis like that,” said Miller, who was drafted one spot after Newton in the 2011 draft. “The emphasis was playing the type of defense that we had been playing all year long — let DeMarcus rush, let Malik rush, let Derek [Wolfe] rush, let all those guys be great.
“Of course, we spied [on Newton] one time, two times, three times max. But for the most part, we just played our game.”
In this day and age of high-powered offenses, the performance underscored the importance of a consistent pass rush on the front line and coverage at the cornerback positions.
Ware was the last big piece of the puzzle. After nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, the all-time sacked leader in franchise history was released after the 2013 season. The Broncos signed him to a three-year contract a short time later.
One year ago, Phillips was brought in to oversee the group.
“Coach Wade did a great job of putting us in position to win,” Jackson said. “It was an all-around great effort. We had no doubt.”
And the Panthers and the rest of the league should have none, either.