CAR-DEN grades: Miller-Remmers matchup proves key

The top takeaways and highest-graded players from Denver's 24-10 victory over Carolina in Super Bowl 50.

| 10 months ago
(AP Foto/Charlie Riedel)

(AP Foto/Charlie Riedel)

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:

Denver Broncos

— 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.

Top Performers

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

 

Carolina Panthers

— 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.

Top Performers:

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

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • AJ

    Interesting to note, Evan Mathis is the only offensive player on either team to be one of the top performers.

    • anon76returns

      Lock him up, Elway!
      What’s interesting to me is that it was Carolina’s DEs that played so well (and got the corresponding grades to show for it), when all I had heard about all season was the DTs, neither of whom were in the top 5 grading.
      I’m also curious how Denver’s CB trio graded out- worse than Norman and Finnegan, apparently.

      • Lane Trujillo

        He played poorly most of the regular season. I was a fan of letting him go for backup Max Garcia was playing better. Come the playoffs and I think the final two games of the season, Mathis stepped up his game significantly. Denver has some tough Cap decisions to make, Mathis could be on the fringe because of his veteran salary needs.

        • anon76returns

          I don’t think he played that poorly- Mathis was the highest graded run blocker of any guard in the league in the regular season. He looked exceedingly rough in the first game, but that was literally his first game experience with any of the guys on the team, so it wasn’t surprising. He might no longer be the absolute best guard in the league, but he is probably the best fit for the Shanahan/Kubiak/Gibbs zone running scheme that Denver will be running. As much as I like Vasquez, if it came down to it the Broncos should prioritize Mathis over Vasquez, even if it means cutting a popular OL player.

          • Lane Trujillo

            I find that he was the best run blocking guard all season hard to believe. For a bit I had the pay stats but PFF has since locked those up to anyone except professionals. Last I saw he was not that good. He got stronger as the season went but I can’t imagine he turned to #1 for run. I know he is far stronger on the run than pass but his pass blocking was straight horrible most the season.

          • anon76returns

            Yeah, I lost the premium stats after week 6, so I’m in the same boat as you. But you can take PFF’s word for it- check out #7:
            https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2016/01/27/pro-top-10-offensive-line-free-agents/

            Also, if you go through the game break downs you can see him in about half of them: vs Balt -3.3; @KC +0.5; @Oak +2.8; vs GB +3.5; @Ind +2.3; @ Chi +3.8; vs SD +4.5; vs NE (AFCCG) +6.3; Car (SB) +4.0. Those are really good grades (other than the Baltimore one). Assuming he was somewhere around break-even in the other games, that would certainly make him one of the best guards in football, as the free agent article claims.

        • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

          He was also dinged up for much of the year.

      • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

        To be fair, was that a result of the DTs drawing more attention, freeing up the DEs to suceed?

        • anon76returns

          Maybe. The Broncos OG and C are also much better than their OTs, so that probably helped. But Ealy in particular made plays that were just his own doing- the sort of stuff that I expected to see from e.g. Short, but didn’t.

  • Jared

    It’s pretty amazing for the Broncos they now have two Super Bowl wins with 2 of the lowest outputs for a QB in Super Bowl history. As for Manning he had one job and that was to not blow it and he even failed at that keeping the Panthers in the game and costing his team points with some stupid plays. Right now this is a Legendary defense and I would love to see how they stack up in the PFF era.

    • Jody

      I believe the Panthers were a top 5 defense, why not give them some credit instead of hating on Manning?

      • Jared

        Who’s hating? He didn’t play well and I’m telling the truth.

        • Doc Bear

          True. One thing that got lost was that he and Archie sat around talking before the season and Peyton was saying that he had foot problems. Two smart people thought they were smarter than a PCP – Manning needed to have his fasciitis fixed prior to the season. Might have made a big difference – but riding into the sunset on a SB victory isn’t a terrible fate.

      • James Rogers

        Did you watch the way P Manning played ALL YEAR?

      • The Mysteries of Bob

        Sure, but his decision making has deteriorated, it was abysmal again.

        Even the trade-off sack/interception between Osweiler and Manning was gone, Peyton took sacks like he was Brock in the playoffs, including five in the Super Bowl.

        At least he proved how meaningless rings are as measurement of greatness, the greatest to ever play the game likely retires with a Super Bowl win where the winning team had the lowest yardage output ever. After years of bad bounces leading to a below .500 record in the playoffs, luck and defense were finally on his side.

      • Lane Trujillo

        Yes… Carolina played solid on defense. You can’t blame Cam and say he played badly and its his fault. He played badly because of the Denver Defense.

        • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

          Much like he did most of the time he played against a decent defense during this, his “breakout year.”

    • anon76returns

      Manning threw a bad pass when the defender’s back was turned, and the defender made a hell of a play to get his head around and locate the ball. Other than that I don’t know what “stupid plays” you’re talking about, unless it was stupid of Manning to be starting his throwing motion when his tackles were getting beaten badly. Again, crediting to Carolina’s D ends.

      • Jared

        Manning had two picks dropped by Josh Norman one down the field early and another late in the game. Of course he fumbled twice in a row one recovered by the Panthers and as for that interception Manning had plenty of room outside to throw to Sanders and he placed one badly inside where the coverage could get it. You can check again if you’d like.

        • anon76returns

          Both of Manning’s fumbles consisted of getting his arm hit from behind because his tackle was beat. I don’t care what the boxscore says, that is the fault of the OT, not the QB.
          As for the INT, the defender’s back was turned when the ball was released. It wasn’t the best choice of throws, but it wasn’t a stupid decision either. Some times the guy on the other team makes plays, you know?

          • Jared

            It was bad ball placement it was the only place the defense could have made a play. Yes the defender made a good play buy it was thrown where he could make a play when there was a better placement option where there was no play for the defense.

          • KAO

            People only say things about defenders making good plays when its a QB they like…. Thats one of the truest statements on Earth Lol if this was like Mark Sanchez instead the narrative would be much different….

          • Lane Trujillo

            He played pretty average. He certainly didn’t play great, but considering Carolina is a top 3 defense, it can be expected. It’s like saying Cam just played bad and that Denver’s Defense didn’t have anything to do with that.

        • Dan Hachenberger

          That’s more about protection breaking down. Almost picks only count as an incompletion

      • KAO

        That 2nd fumble was 100% on Manning he dropped the ball from his hand and he threw 4 TW passes but CAR only capitalized on one. The Panthers are a huge momentum team and each of those plays could have been difference makers but Manning lucked into another SB despite his play.

  • angryspit

    Shocked at the number of people picking Carolina to score in the 30’s in their predictions due to Carolina’s offense and defense when in reality Denver had a better pass rush and secondary. Kudos to Carolina to making it that far with limited weapons in the receiving game would have never thought it possible at the start of the year.

    • Jody

      Well, I picked Denver to win 24-20, and I’m delighted that I was so far off…

      • Lane Trujillo

        I had Denver Winning 23-19, also stoked it was a larger victory

        • angryspit

          I had Denver 20-16

      • Connor Hartman

        I actually also had Denver 24-20

        • Thomas Bell

          I had Denver 24 – 21 — but put 100$ on them to win the SB after the San Diego game, at 5-1.

      • Names Unimportant

        Haha! Almost NOBODY who picked the Broncos had a margin of more than one score. They played so many tight games that a 14-point victory over a squad as good as the Panthers qualifies as a genuine surprise. I had the Broncos winning 23-20 and let’s face it, the Panthers were a team built for front-running all season, lacking a consistently explosive offense and relying on a tough running game and short fields courtesy turnovers. Carolina lacks the receivers to get the needed number of chunk plays needed to “flip the field” against Denver—that would be the Steelers who can do that.

    • JudoPrince

      At the end of the Day, this is how favorites end up losing. Costly mistakes such as fumbles, false starts and drops. The dropped ball by Ginn that lead to an INT in the redzone. The Panthers also got the bad end of the deal on calls including the holding penalty that was mysteriously picked up by the refs at a crucial moment, the offside on the missed FG attempt that wasn’t called and a blatant pass interference on Ginn that wasn’t called in the redzone. Not to mention the clear catch by Cotchery that should have been reversed, leading to a fumble touchdown on the very next play.

      All of these factors added up is simply football. It’s a one game sport and you have to play your best and have things go your way. Simply wasn’t there for the Panthers in that game but they have an awful lot to build on for next year. Great performance by Denver’s defense and Von Miller was unbelievable out there.

      • Lane Trujillo

        You’re seriously blaming the refs? Von Miller is held almost every play…

        • Carl

          Lane hit the nail on the head. There were about a dozen more plays where Von would have had another sack if a lineman didn’t have his arm wrapped around his entire neck without getting called.

        • Brandon

          If anything the refs helped keep the game even in favor of the panthers. They saw the game getting out of hand and flagged talib for a very ticky tack taunting call to extend a drive that led nowhere. And i dont know how many times i saw Cam newton hold the ball for 5+ seconds with several d linemen getting “blocked” without a flag. The refs did their best to keep the game from getting out of hand, they did not do their best to just do their job.

          • JudoPrince

            I find it odd that the Panthers were helped by the refs when the only flags Denver accumulated were personal fouls. By the way, a Panther player was called for two personals by himself. That cancels out any perceived notion that Talib received ticky tack fouls, if you can say the same thing about Tre Boston.

        • JudoPrince

          Its hard to justify holding as a reason a team was helped by the refs. Holding can be called on almost every play. You can just as easily add up the ‘holding’ calls on Ealy, Johnson and Allen. Look, I’m not a Panthers fan, just calling it how I saw the game.

          • mormonrock124

            You 100% are a Panthers fan. I can cut and paste your comments on the article discussing the Panthers off-season if you’d like. No one is going to discuss the 4th and 5th CB options for a team they do not root for unless they are a paid analyst.

          • JudoPrince

            I’m a Ravens fan. I have followed the Panthers the last few years because I saw them emerging under Cam; interesting team but I have no loyalties to them. I also follow other teams that I actually don’t like. I admire the Broncos and believe they put forth one of the all time great defensive post-seasons in history. I’m just a fan of the sport and information is very accessible these days with sites like PFF.

      • ChickenHunter

        You missed or forgot all the questionable calls Carolina got to start the game. It looked like another NFL snow job favoring the East Coast team up to that point so it evened out.

        • JudoPrince

          Specific missed calls on Panthers please. Not including ‘holding’ on offense, which can be called on just about every single play.

          • Autocephallus

            Intentional grounding at least twice.

      • Dan Hachenberger

        There are penalties on every play, they call the most blatant one’s. DT was geting jacked on avery play by Norman. And if you think that was a catch, you need to watch the tape again. The tip of the ball hits the ground, and moves. That’s enough right there.

    • Thinkaboutit

      Can’t lie, I thought if Denver won that it would’ve only been by a few points. I thought cam would’ve handled being hit better than he did, clearly I was wrong.

  • Mike

    Chip, don’t worry. The Eagles didn’t need Evan Mathis!

    • anon76returns

      LOL!
      When FA opened and Chip was going crazy I said that the Broncos could pick up Mathis for a Burrito:
      http://www.milehighreport.com/2015/3/12/8205149/pieces-falling-into-place-on-broncos-shuffled-offensive-line?&_ga=1.247126532.1099372594.1409078459#294078630
      Turns out that Chip valued him even less than I anticipated.

    • KAO

      He asked to be released…. Sucks for Philly cost us our season really but he didnt want to play for the Eagles anymore he wanted to chase a ring.

      • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

        Sorry, but one OG probably didn’t make or break the season.

        • KAO

          It very easily can. Run blocking can easily affect down and distance which affects drives. Which affects point totals. Which affects the game. Which affects the season…. Especially for a team that was a game away from the division.

  • dlund6cutler

    Danny Trevathan played his last game in Denver before going to Chicago!

    • anon76returns

      He’ll likely be in the $6-$8M range. Let me take the opportunity on behalf of BroncoLand to thank you now for the 4th round comp pick, and wish the best of luck to Danny T!

      • dlund6cutler

        How much is Von going to cost $15-$20M, I was banking on him somehow hitting free agency but that’s not going to happen.

        • Dan Hachenberger

          Hes’s Elways pick. He will be signed by Denver

    • Autocephallus

      It’s good he got his ring now then, he certainly won’t be winning any there.

      • dlund6cutler

        Let me guess you’re a Broncos fan, Or at least now your a Broncos after being a Seahawks fan last year.

        • Dan Hachenberger

          John fox will never bring a Super Bowl to Chicago.

          • dlund6cutler

            Yeah he chokes in the playoffs, but i’d take him over Trestman

  • dlund6cutler

    I’m not even going to lie, I had Carolina winning by double digits. Manning played bad but I expected worse.

  • Anthony Schroeder

    LOL WHAT?!?! You gave Cam a +1.6?!?! Did you people watch the same game? He fumbled 4 times… He was exceedingly inaccurate most of the game. This is still the same grading that gives A-Rod a negative score after a 6 TD game, or after PFFs own words “a very good day barring one mistake (single int day)”

    • sjt2115

      4 times? Nope. I wonder if you watched the same game.

      • Anthony Schroeder

        ESPN has him at two fumbles and two lost. There were two additional fumbles (both recovered) on plays negated by penalty. Either way absolutely unacceptable.

        • JT

          the two fumbles ARE the ones he lost….the other one you are thinking of was after he was already down and got a late hit. I guess QBs are supposed to grow eyes on the side of their head and know that their RTs aren’t supposed to block for them within 2 secs.

  • Brandon

    How on earth do you give Newton a positive grade? I get not totally destroying him, but he should have broken even at least. He missed receivers all night, made several poor decisions on passes and he only did decently as a runner. His running the ball surely didnt outshine the fact that he completed way less than 50% of his passes.

    • anon76returns

      Not that 50% is the greatest barometer, but on even an average (by NFL standards) game by his WRs would have gotten him over 50% completion and no INTs.

  • Jason

    Carolina’s vaunted running game was pretty disappointing. You’d think that after a half of getting stuffed on runs up the gut, they’d get a little more creative. On the other hand, there were quite a few runs where I recall Cam holding the ball in Stewart’s gut on what looked like a read option while the LB crashed down on the running back and left a clear lane for Newton to keep the ball and take it around the edge.

  • Tim Lynch

    Ya’ll need to work on your quarterback grading. Cam Newton completed like 30% of this throws, made errant throws even when not pressured and really just didn’t have his decision making in the right place. +1.6 seems absurdly high given what we all saw without own two eyes. Is this the same guy that gave Aaron Rodgers a negative grade after throwing like 6 touchdowns in a game? 😉

    • JT

      30% would of been 70% had the receivers not dropped 18 passes…

      • Tim Lynch

        LOL – 18 passes? I am fairly certain it would be a waste of my time to debate that number with you.

  • deljzc

    I don’t know how you give a positive grade to a quarterback that fumbled twice inside his 10 yard line and basically gave up more points to a defense than he scored on offense. The pressure might be on the offensive line, but fumbles are on the player and Cam Newton’s fumbles (and where they were) caused them to lose the game.

  • Thomas Bell

    The facts were all there to support a Denver win. Cam’s low comp % under pressure. Cam’s low % on third down. Mediocre WRS vs the #1 pass defense. Denver’s superior run D. Inflated stats on a cupcake schedule. And a lack of classy experienced veterans on the roster to keep them cool on the big stage.

    It’s astonishing to me that so many people didn’t see them capable of repeating the performance they had against NE two weeks prior. I picked Denver to win the SB before the divisional round at 5-1… and I just got reimbursed for my flight to Denver and ticket to the AFC Championship game.