SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Cam Newton’s dream season ended with a nightmare performance.
Fresh off being named the league’s MVP, the Panthers fifth-year quarterback was stymied by an aggressive Denver Broncos defense in his first Super Bowl appearance on Sunday.
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback who scored 45 touchdowns during the regular season — and five more in the playoffs — failed to produce a TD running or throwing for the first time this season and the Panthers lost 24-10 in Super Bowl 50.
Newton didn’t get much help from his offensive line which allowed a Super Bowl record-tying seven sacks, or his wide receivers, who dropped big passes at key times.
Newton spent much of the game under heavy duress as the Panthers were unable to handle the pressure of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware on the edges. Miller had 2 1/2 sacks, including two strip-sacks against overmatched right tackle Mike Remmers that led to Denver’s two touchdowns.
Denver’s first touchdown came when Miller blew past Remmers and ripped the ball out of Newton’s grasp. Malik Jackson recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown to put the Panthers in an early 10-0 hole they could never dig out of.
Newton never looked comfortable in the pocket, side-arming throws, overthrowing wide receivers and generally running for his life.
Eventually frustration began to set it.
With Carolina trailing by six late in the fourth quarter, Miller broke through again and knocked the ball from Newton’s hands. With the ball rolling on the turf, Newton opted not to dive in the pile and the Broncos recovered at the Panthers 4 to set up C.J. Anderson’s clinching TD run.
With less than three minutes remaining, Newton was knocked down in the end zone and screamed at an official looking for a late hit but didn’t get one.
The question surrounding the Panthers all year long was whether their wide receivers would be good enough for Newton after Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending knee injury in training camp.
Carolina still managed to finish No. 1 in the league in scoring this season, putting up 500 points in the regular season and 80 more in the postseason.
But a key drop by Jerricho Cotchery early came two plays before Newton’s first fumble. Ted Ginn Jr. also had a ball go through his hands and into the awaiting arms of T.J. Ward for an interception that denied Carolina a scoring opportunity.
The Broncos neutralized tight end Greg Olsen and the Panthers lost Philly Brown to a concussion in the second half rendering their offense useless.
The Panthers could never establish a running game with Jonathan Stewart held to 29 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown run while battling through a foot injury.