CAR-DEN grades: Miller-Remmers matchup proves key
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Denver Broncos’ 24-10 Super Bowl 50 triumph over the Carolina Panthers:
— The matchup between the Denver pass rush and Carolina offensive line was always going to be key, and the battle didn’t disappoint, with Von Miller (+6.7) putting forward one of the biggest performances in a Super Bowl in the PFF era. One of the best pass rushers since entering the league in 2011, Miller brought his rookie contract to a close with another three sack performance that fit perfectly with the utter dominance we have come to see from him, and in particular, in these playoffs. Too much for right tackle Mike Remmers (-6.8) to handle, Miller forced two fumbles on sacks, and adding another five hurries to his total too.
— Anyone expecting one last hurrah from Peyton Manning (-1.9), if he is indeed to retire, will be disappointed this morning. He struggled in the first half, with several throws that should have been picked off, but settled down a lot more in the second half. In a role that is so far removed from his MVP days, Manning played the role of game manager. The Broncos’ defense had them on top throughout, with Manning needing just to not lose the game for them. It wasn’t perfect, but it also wasn’t as bad as a lot of people expected, especially against a good Panthers’ defense.
— If Von Miller against Mike Remmers was the matchup they wanted to exploit on defense, on the other side of the ball it was all about targeting Robert McClain (+1.0). He came away with a pass breakup on the hitch route to Ronnie Hillman early in the first quarter, but struggled more against wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (+1.0). Manning completed all four of the passes attempted to Sanders with McClain in coverage, going for 70 yards at an impressive 17.5 yards per catch.
OLB Von Miller +6.7
LG Evan Mathis +4.0
NT Sylvester Williams +3.5
DE Malik Jackson +3.1
DE Derek Wolfe +1.9
— After the heights he achieved this season, Cam Newton’s (+1.6) Super Bowl performance definitely seems like a disappointment, but it’s important to note that it wasn’t a bad performance overall. He carried the ball on designed runs just five times, but it was a passer where the biggest impact was felt, with the Broncos generating pressure on 23 of his 49 drop-backs, and Newton completing just 31.3 percent of his passes under pressure. He wasn’t helped out by his supporting cast, with the offensive line’s struggles evident, and four dropped passes by receivers. A frustrating day for one of the best players in the NFL, but certainly not a terrible performance, especially given the circumstances.
— While they couldn’t get it done on offense, the Carolina defense kept them in the game until late in the fourth quarter, making life as tough as they could for the Denver offense throughout. The highlight on that side of the ball was defensive end Kony Ealy (+5.0), who had the highest graded game of his two year career, and by some distance. He did it as a pass rusher, with three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, and in coverage, with a surprising interception of Manning on a play where he dropped back. Had the Panthers been able to mount a comeback, it’s likely we’d be talking about Ealy as the game’s MVP.
— He was arguably the best corner in the NFL for much of the 2015 season, and Josh Norman (+2.1) ended the year with another impressive showing. Targeted in coverage five times, Norman gave up just one catch for 22 yards, and a defensive holding penalty late in the game. All of the other three passes thrown his way were broken up, as he made life as miserable as possibly for Manning and the Broncos’ offense.
DE Kony Ealy +5.0
DE Charles Johnson +2.7
DE Jared Allen +2.2
CB Josh Norman +2.1
CB Cortland Finnegan +1.9