When Von Miller and the Broncos realized they had broken Cam Newton

Columnist
Yahoo Sports

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – On the sixth snap of Cam Newton's Super Bowl, Von Miller charged at him from the edge, hit him face first and promptly ripped the football out of his hands. Just tore it out.

This was grown man stuff. This was violent, blunt-force defense. This was the best player on the Denver Broncos confronting the best player on the Carolina Panthers, and just taking what he wanted – the ball, the Super Bowl, his football soul for the next few hours.

"That play did it," Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "That play rattled [Newton]. We got in his head like that. We got in his mind. He hasn't been harassed like that all season."

Cam Newton is sacked by Von Miller during the first half of Super Bowl 50. (AP)
Cam Newton is sacked by Von Miller during the first half of Super Bowl 50. (AP)

You may never see a defensive player dominate a football game like Miller dominated Super Bowl 50 in leading the Broncos to a 24-10 victory. It wasn't just the six tackles, the 2½ sacks and the two forced fumbles that produced Denver's only two touchdowns.

This was some unholy stuff, balletic brutality that made him the most important player defensively and offensively – the Super Bowl 50 MVP was far more responsible for Denver's points scored than Peyton Manning.

Maybe more than anything, though, Miller proved to his teammates exactly what they suspected – that for all his size and speed and daps and dances, Newton was capable of being shredded like a paper MVP. Oh, they respected his ability. They didn't trust anything else.

Not the 17-1 record. Not the stats, such as the 31.25-points-a-game average (plus 80 more in two playoff games). Not all the highligh- reel stuff.

"He just hasn't faced nobody," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "We looked at their schedule. They played the AFC South. They played the, what conference are they in? I don't know what division they're in."

The NFC South.

"They haven't played nobody man," Harris continued. "So you look at the schedule and we're the first dogs they've played."

And all Denver needed was its biggest dog, its best dog to go prove the point. The Broncos felt like if someone could stand up to Newton, eye to eye, will to will, then everything would crumble. Newton plays the game with great passion and emotion, it can power him to greatness; it can also leave him in doubt and depressed.

He isn't your protype quarterback, your Tom Brady. At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds – with two inches on Miller – he thrives on winning physical confrontations. What would happen if he didn't, though? A guy like Brady has learned to take it, shrug it off and move on. Cam might be different.

Miller has a pack of wild men around and behind him, ones looking for a clue that their suspicions had been correct.

That first sack and strip caused the ball to bounce into the end zone where Denver's Malik Jackson pounced on it, giving the Broncos a 10-0 lead and leaving Cam to shuffle off, head down.

That, the Broncos said, is when they knew they had Newton, knew that he knew he was playing a whole other level now and what worked during the regular season wouldn't now.

Soon there were soaring passes and poor decisions and a quarterback who couldn't find a rhythm. There were sacks and sacks and sacks, seven total (one taken by Ted Ginn Jr.). There were punts and punts and punts, seven of those also. The first half ended with a crushing blast courtesy of DeMarcus Ware. There were a few times Newton was slow to rise.

And as Cam struggled, so went the rest of the offense, receivers dropping balls, a running game that stalled out. Newton finished 18 of 41 for 265 yards, no touchdowns, two fumbles and one interception.

Also zero dances.

"Not a one," Marshall said.

Instead, it was the Denver defense that was dancing, a row of Broncos mockingly dabbing in front of their postgame lockers and howling in delight, mocking Newton and those Panthers. They didn't seem to respect Carolina coming into the game. They sure weren't now. They loved that he never even dared to celebrate in their face. Never even dared.

"That whole team was rattled," Harris said. "We started hitting them. Running backs fumbling the ball. Cam throwing picks. He ain't been hit like how we hit and we showed him today."

"It was easy today," Jackson said. "Straight easy. Like water."

Von Miller was not the only Bronco putting the heat on Cam Newton. (AP)
Von Miller was not the only Bronco putting the heat on Cam Newton. (AP)

Miller was more measured in his comments, which is his personality. For all the fury he plays the game with on the field, he is calm and cool off it, cerebral looking in his glasses. One day, when he retires, he wants to be a chicken farmer, cashing in on his degree from Texas A&M.

He came Sunday to make plays, though. He came to make them against Cam. When your offense is quarterbacked by an aged Peyton Manning with no guarantee of moving the ball at all, let alone score, you know you have to make things happen.

"I'm going for the ball every time," Miller said. "That's just the type of football player I am. If it were basketball, I'd definitely be a 3-point shooter. I'm definitely going for the ball. That's what Coach [Wade] Phillips has been preaching all year: We need turnovers. We need turnovers to win."

The first one set the tone. The last one, this one late in the fourth quarter as Newton was trying to engineer a game-winning drive, proved the point. After hours of bruises and beatings both physical and mental, when Miller stripped him and the Super Bowl bounced in the balance, Newton didn't even dive for the loose ball.

"He didn't want it," defensive back Aqib Talib said.

"Everybody was talking Carolina this, Carolina that," Marshall said. "They haven't played a defense like us."

"Four turnovers and 10 points," Harris said. "Have they scored 10 points all season?"

The defenders continued to laugh. Oh man, were they loving this. They didn't seem so bothered that so few pundits believed in them coming into the game as much as that so many believed too much in the Panthers.

Were they watching the same tape? Did they really think Carolina was tough enough to win the hard way?

"There ain't no Easter Bunny, there ain't no Santa Claus, there ain't no Superman," Talib said.

Didn't they know what Von Miller was capable of doing?

"That man," Jackson said of his teammate, "showed up."

He showed up and shoved Cam Newton down, a bully just taking the whole thing from his hands.

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