How the Broncos can win Super Bowl 50

PFF analyst Ben Stockwell explains how Denver's pass rush will be critical in slowing down Carolina's offense.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

How the Broncos can win Super Bowl 50

If the Broncos are to win Super Bowl 50, it will be on the strength of their defense limiting the offensive output of the Carolina Panthers, as well as allowing their own offense to do just enough to deliver the franchise’s third championship. The Broncos have only scored 30 points twice all season (one of those required overtime to get there), while the Panthers have hit 30 points twice in the playoffs alone, and eight times more during the regular season. If the scores start to pile up in this game, the Panthers become heavy favorites to take home the Lombardi Trophy, so the onus will be on the Broncos’ offense to keep the play count low and their vaunted defense to make this game a race to 20 points.

In order to limit an offense, you want to make them one-dimensional. That’s certainly easier said than done, with the Panthers presenting a multi-dimensional running attack before you even consider how effective Cam Newton has been as a passer this season. Taking away the passing game will be the first step for the Broncos, and they certainly have the players to make Newton uncomfortable inside and outside the pocket. Newton’s passer rating is a meager 71.1 (six TDs, six INTs) under pressure this season, and when he is forced to scramble, the former Auburn star has not been a dynamic threat this season. Newton was forced to scramble 58 times this year, converting 29 of those into runs for 222 yards; but as a passer when scrambling, he has completed only nine passes for 126 with no touchdowns, one interception, and only two passes of 20 yards or more.

Simply put, Newton has developed into a deadly threat from inside the pocket, but he has not been the threat that you might expect him to be from outside the pocket on designed pass plays, so this should give the Broncos the green light to get after him.

The Broncos certainly have the weapons to get after Newton to both put him under pressure and force him outside the pocket. Off the edge, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware might be the league’s best edge-rushing tandem, with Ware coming off one of the best games of his career against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Ware racked up 11 pressures (one sack, six hits, four hurries) with Miller adding eight of his own (three sacks, one hit, four hurries) from the opposite side. As good as the Panthers’ duo of Michael Oher (85.9 pass protection grade) and Mike Remmers (71.6) have played in pass protection this season, they have only faced a pass rushing tandem of this caliber twice this season—against the Seahawks—and in that first encounter, Remmers allowed a season-high five pressures, while the second encounter saw the Panthers deploy a run-heavy attack.

Add to the Broncos’ platoon off the edge (with Shaquil Barrett ready to keep Miller and Ware fresh) their interior trio of Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson, and Antonio Smith, and the Broncos pose the sort of all-round threat as a pass rush unit that even a line as good as the Panthers’ will surely struggle to cope with. This pressure up front will then place the game in the hands of the Broncos’ excellent secondary, and even with the wild card of Greg Olsen to cover in a variety of alignments, you would be hard-pressed to say that the Broncos don’t have a clear advantage in this area.

Limiting Cam Newton is far from an easy task, and going aggressively after Newton to disrupt him and force him outside the pocket comes with its own risks, but the Carolina QB has proven this season that he has developed beyond being a player that you can simply contain in the pocket and expect him not to come up with the big plays to dissect your secondary.

The Broncos have the players on the front end and the back end to disrupt Cam Newton and plaster his receivers, however; if Denver can do this, they will give themselves an excellent chance to keep Carolina within scoring range of their own offense, and take home the win in what could be Peyton Manning’s final game.


Not convinced? Be sure to check out Sam Monson’s article on how the Panthers will topple the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Rick S.

    For all the talk about how much better Carolina’s offense is than Denver’s, the Panthers only out-gained Denver by 11 yards per game. Carolina is great in the red zone and lives off of turnovers. If Denver protects they ball and forces Carolina to drive the field they should score significantly less than their season average. Of course IF is a big word.

    Essentially, this game all comes down to how Peyton plays. He doesn’t have to carry them, but he needs to protect the ball and make a few plays. if he does Denver has a great chance to win.

    • Ben M

      Peyton v2016 has to play a brilliant game. Not sure that will happen. Panthers are ball hawks. Once Peyton gets disrupted, it could look like 43-8.

      Panthers hold the ball well and keep probing with run and pass until weakness is found. Panthers will play run alot up the middle against Denver behind its Pro-Bowl interior OL. Cam is like the wildcat offense but a 60% passer at 260 pounds and 4.5 speed. Not so with Peyton. A HOF brain with a weakened body.

      • Rick S.

        I don’t think Carolina can drive the ball down the field consistently against Denver’s defense. Denver has per ESPN/Football Outsiders, the 4th best defense (1990 to present) in the NFL.

        If by brilliant game you mean; no turnovers and have a 50% 3rd down conversion rate, then you are right. He doesn’t need to light it up, just make sure every drive ends with a kick (PAT, FG, Punt).

        Denver 24
        Carolina 16

        • Four Touchdowns

          I hope you’re right!

        • Andrew McMillan

          Sure it’s possible. But Carolina has only had one game this season (regular season match up vs Seattle) where Carolina hasn’t forced a turnover. And Manning turned the ball over more than any other QB despite missing multiple games.

          And in that game the Panthers had 4 80 yard TD drives against one of the best defenses in the NFL, showing just because they normally take advantage of turnovers to get points, they don’t have to.

        • Ben M

          Peyton was 10x better when they played Seattle. 43-8. Denver’s defense is awesome. Like Seattle’s and Arizona’s. Both had no answers for the Panthers, surrendering 35 and 49 points.

          Denver’s not faced a mobile QB all year.
          Carson Palmer was 2nd in line for MVP. Carolina intercepted him 4 times and forced 2 fumbles. Similar profile to Peyton, immobile pocket passer.

          Cam has 25 pounds on Von Miller and 15 on DeMarcus Ware. And can outrun them. Sure, they’ll get a sack. JJ Watt did, a couple other guys too.

          If Denver beats Carolina, my hat’s off to ya. Honestly, it would be an upset to be proud of.

          • Jefferson

            Actually Seattle very much *DID* have the answer defensively, providing the Broncos with a partial blueprint.

            After the first play of the game, in which 3 defenders slipped on the garbage turf wearing the wrong cleats, Carolina was subsequently held to 236 total yards and 85 running yards on 40+ carries.

            And no, the Panthers did not ‘shut down the O’ in the second half: they very much wanted yards and scores but failed to get them or even effectively run down the clock. Of course, the monumental combo fail of the Seahawk offensive line and some uncharacteristic stupid moves by Wilson resulted in a hole that was too deep to get out of.

          • Ben M

            Actually, they did “shut down the O”. Both offensive and defensive coordinators, interviewed after the Seattle game admitted going vanilla and conservative after being up 31-0. Rivera chastised them both in a later press conference.

            And the field was the same field for both teams.

            We’ve heard this junk all year:
            1. Panthers are the worst undefeated/15-1 team.
            2. Receiving corp is crap.
            3. Weakest schedule.
            4. The field was bad.
            5. The opponent had too many injuries.
            6. Dallas will stop them
            7. New York always knocks off undefeated teams.

            8. They won’t get past Seattle now that guys returned from injury.
            9. They won’t have an answer for Arizona’s receivers.
            10. The secondary is depleted.

            Ice up son, ice up.

      • bigpoppapump97

        Peyton does not have to play a brilliant game. The game’s not going to be in his hands. He has to take care of the ball and put together some scoring drives.

        Bad news for ya, Denver doesn’t have a weakness on defense. probe all you want. Unlike Carolina who has given up 4 yards per carry on the ground. Looks like a weakness to exploit. For all of the hoopla around Cam, like Rick mentioned your vaunted offense was 11th in total yards this year.

        • Ben M

          Bold talk for a fan of a team that barely squeaked by broken New England. Peyton under pressure throws picks like skittles.

          Denver hasn’t faced a dual-threat QB all year. And there is no one like Cam.

          • Zach

            How was new England broken? They actually had a bunch of players come back for that game. They still made the afccg so to say they were broken is just dumb.

            Alex smith twice. Rodgers. Bridgewater. Carr. I realize these guys aren’t the same level as cam as far as a dual threat QB but they’re the closest in the league except for Wilson. And Bridgewater had the best game of all those as probably the least mobile qb.

          • Ben M

            12 offensive lines in a season. The majority of their line was on IR. Rookies protecting Brady. Not saying Denver’s not an awesome defense, but Tom Brady without a good OL is not a true test. Denver won 20-18 against immobile 37yo Brady with a banged up line. Denver sure can beat Carolina. But I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on it.

            Cam Newton 26TD -0 Int in the red zone. Peyton 7-2. And those are only Cam’s passing TDs.

            I’ve said it before, if it’s an upset, my hat’s off. But it would be the biggest one since Jets 16 – Colts 7.

          • Rick S.

            Jets-Colts??? The Giants and Broncos both won as 13 point underdogs… Carolina is favored by 5.5

            The Panthers deserve to be favored (slightly) because their offense has been more consistent, but Carolina is hardly an all-time team. They play in an easy division and their inter-division opponents were the two worst divisions in football, (AFCS & NFCE).

            New England is a better team than Carolina… Better and more complete defense, better QB with more offensive weapons to account for. The only areas where Carolina is better than New England is on the OL and at RB. Carson Palmer basically sh^t the bed and the wheels fell off quickly. To make it worse, Arians kept pushing the envelope, and btw a lot of guys were open… While Peyton isn’t what he used to be, I wouldn’t count on that from Manning/Kubiak.

          • Ben M

            Broncos have the 22nd rated defense in the red zone. Panthers have the number 1 rated offense in the red zone.

            Before Carolina got bored in the second half against Seattle and took a nap, they put up 31 points in the first half. Seattle was the #1 defense in points allowed.

            In Arizona they were mad at themselves and put up 24 points in the first half and 25 in the second. Arizona was the #7 defense in points allowed.

            These were playoff teams with top-10 defenses and MVP-considered QBs. Peyton too, deserves an MVP for his fine work in 2008.

            Broncos trailed the Steelers most of the game and barely escaped the Patriots, both at home. This isn’t the season, this was their last two games.

            Peyton in the 2014 Super Bowl basically sh^t the bed and generated an incredible 8 points for all his skill and power. When Broncos were the #1 offense. Same QB, except he was in better condition. You might think that keeps him up at night. I’d wonder about his psyche.

          • bigpoppapump97

            Sounds like a guy who’s relying on another QB to throw them 5 interceptions again. You sure talk a lot about Manning on here, this team isn’t about Manning in case you haven’t noticed.

            You guys never topped 400 yards against Seattle in your 2 matchups. The Broncos haven’t given up 400 total yards all season. The first team in 5 years to do so. Arizona? lol. They don’t have one player on that defense who could start for Denver. They’re another team that beat up on a bad schedule. Hell our backups could probably start for them.

            You guys sure got bored alot giving up all those leads right? God damn I could at least argue with a fan who has some perspective but you think the Panthers are one of the 5 best teams in NFL history.

          • Ben M

            I’m not driving any position except the facts of the season. Not insulting your team or claiming what the Panthers will do, just what is likely.

            Panthers average margin of victory 12 points, Broncos 3.7.
            Most takeaways
            Highest scoring offense
            A QB with versatility the Broncos have not faced in 2015.

            The Broncos ARE a Super Bowl team, and they CAN win the game. But in fairness, they’ve had a choppy season where the Panthers started poorly/got lucky and have gotten better the back half.

            Anything can happen, but as a fan, or casual observer, this is the best Panthers team anyone has seen and the record shows it. That said, the Patriots entered 18-0 against the Giants, and lost.

        • Ben M

          Denver’s redzone defense is 22nd in the league. Panthers red zone offense is 1st. No. There’s no weakness.
          How silly of me.

          • bigpoppapump97

            Love it how fans are one sided on their perspective. Redzone defense? Lol, how long did it take you to find that stat? Denver’s defense has been compromised all year by that garbage QB Manning you’ve been slamming. -4 TO differential and still went 12-4 and finished 4th in scoring defense.

            Just as your Red zone offense capitalized on the gazillion TO’s your defense created, TO’s compromised the Denver D all season. We know your offense is good at taking the ball at the opposing 30 and scoring touchdowns. We haven’t faced a QB like Cam, you haven’t faced a defense like the Broncos either.

            The broken Patriots? Lol you want credit for beating the good teams you actually played this year yet you played the Cardinals with a broken fingered Carson Palmer and the Seahawks with a banged up Marshawn Lynch. We would’ve held the Patriots to 10 points if it wasn’t for that bogus lateral and our safeties missing the 4th quarter. Sorry to bring some perspective to your one sided arguments there dummy.

    • Four Touchdowns

      Given how good Carolina’s offense is, I think the Broncos offense needs to have their best game of the season.

      They need to replicate their performance in the Green Bay game on both sides of the football — contain and pressure a mobile QB, lock down his receivers, and then run the ball effectively and maintain balance on offense.

      • crosseyedlemon

        The offensive balance is the key. We’ve seen what happens to teams that become one dimensional against the Panthers defense…and it wasn’t pretty.

      • tunesmith

        The thing is, Denver’s offense having their best game of the season isn’t all that crazy of a thought. Manning’s playing in good weather, is more familiar with the offense than he was in the first part of the season, and is less injured than he has been all year. The offensive line has had a year with Dennison’s blocking scheme. They might be downright competent.

    • JudoPrince

      “the Panthers only out-gained Denver by 11 yards per game.”

      You do realize that half of Panther games this year resulted in first half blowouts, essentially causing them to shut down the offense during the 2nd. That stat is pretty useless. Carolina during the season was far more effective throwing the ball downfield, despite Denver having far superior receiving talent. They also offer an incredibly dangerous rushing attack with Cam Newton at the helm. Peyton Manning has been a shell of himself all season and it’s just silly to believe these two teams are on the same level offensively.


    The key is making the Panthers 1 dimensional but not by stopping the pass. The Broncos need to stuff the run and force Cam to win the game with his arm. The Panthers are ranked 24th in passing offense.

    • Ben M

      All true. However, the 24th ranking probably accounts for the whole season with the green receivers – they sucked early on. The two playoff games are the best indicator.

      Highest risks for the Panthers:
      1. Cam being spastic early and throwing picks. He’s a happy guy.
      2. Panthers playing too chippy on defense and getting flags.
      3. Broncos pressure on Cam.
      4. Broncos stuffing the run.

      Highest risks for the Broncos
      1. Wearing down Peyton with hits/Peyton’s psyche.
      2. Cam multi-option run/pass offense working.
      3. Middle runs via Panther’s Pro Bowl interior OL.
      4. Ted Ginn or Greg Olsen breaks free.

  • Rob

    Carolina hasn’t seen a pass rush/coverage unit anywhere near the caliber of the bronco’s. Von Miller and DWare are going to strip Mike Remmers and Oher of their manhood!