SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It was an Orange Crush, and quarterback threat Von Miller did everything he could to end the Panthers’ offense.
The Broncos outside linebacker played part-time spy and full-time rusher against Cam Newton last night at Levi’s Stadium. He had 2 1⁄2 sacks and put on relentless pressure that kept Newton on the run for much of Super Bowl 50. It was Miller’s strip-sack in the first quarter that changed the momentum in favor of the Broncos on their way to a 24-10. victory.
In the fourth quarter, Miller’s strip-sack of Newton on the Carolina 16-yard line set up the Broncos’ game-winning touchdown. The ball squirted free and safety TJ Ward picked it up at the Carolina 4. Four plays later, after a defensive hold call, CJ Anderson slammed into the end zone from the 2.
“We just wanted to be the Orange Crush,” Miller said, “and it worked for us. Honestly, we just got to play our game. That’s the type of defense we’ve played all year.
In the first quarter, Miller’s sack helped Denver take a 10-0 lead. With Newton backed up near his own end zone, Miller manhandled tackle Mike Remmers and used his athleticism and speed to catch the quarterback. Miller took the ball out of Newton’s hands as he took it inside the 5. Luckily for the Broncos, lineman Malik Jackson was there to pick it up for the easy touchdown in the end zone.
Thanks to Miller’s quick feet and even quicker hands, the Broncos have recorded only the seventh defensive fumble return for a touchdown in Super Bowl history. According to ESPN Stats and Information, teams that score a defensive TD in the Super Bowl are 16-2.
“I go for the ball every time,” Miller said. “That’s exactly the type of footballer I am. If it was basketball, I would definitely be a three-point shooter.
For three quarters, future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning struggled against the Panthers pass rush. The Broncos generated little offense, but slowly widened their lead to 16-7 in the third quarter, thanks to two more field goals from Brandon McManus.
But the defense kept the Panthers from playing and Newton from dabbin’ on them. Denver limited him to 18 of 41 passes for 265 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
They say defense wins championships, and the Broncos helped prove that adage two years ago when they were beaten, 43-8, by the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. From that moment on, Denver general manager John Elway — a former Super Bowl champion and Broncos MVP — pledged to improve his defense.
Pairing recent acquisitions Aqib Talib, Ward and DeMarcus Ware with Miller has made all the difference for Denver this season.
“Elway told us, ‘We have to solidify our defence. We need to have a better defense. The first thing we thought of was the Orange Crush,’ Ware said last week, referring to the much-vaunted defense of Denver’s distant past. “We were like, ‘Hey, we have to play like those guys, we have to play with that kind of toughness, because that’s where it all started.’
“That’s what Elway really wanted to bring back, and you can see he did. We were the No. 1 defense this year, and we always said defense wins championships.
Von Miller is the ninth defensive player to be named Super Bowl MVP:
Player, Team Pos. SB
Von Miller, Denver LB 50
Malcolm Smith, LB Seattle XLVIII
Dexter Jackson, CT FS XXXVII
Larry Brown, Dallas BC XXX
Richard Dent, Chicago DE XX
Randy White, Dallas DT and Harvey Martin, Dallas, DE XII
Jake Scott, Miami S VII
Chuck Howley, Dallas LB V