NFL closes half-century of football, Broncos win Super Bowl 50

Evan Pflugradt

Fifty.

Fifty Super Bowls now in the record books.

Sunday night eclipsed 50 years of football greatness into a single night.

Epic beginnings were made. Legacies were closed out.  

The Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 to claim the Lombardi Trophy.

Before kicking off the end of the NFL’s 50th season, Levi’s Stadium paid tribute to the past by honoring the 49 previous Super Bowl MVPs. From Super Bowl I MVP Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Bart Starr to Super Bowl XLIX New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, legacies etched in the record books were relived.    

Peyton Manning, pregaming in the locker room, was recognized as the former MVP from Super Bowl XLI. His brother, Eli, took the stage, he claimed the title the following year.

A crowd of over 115 million viewers tuned in to watch the young-gun, 2010 Heisman winner, Cam Newton take on the legendary Peyton Manning in what many believe will be the last of Manning’s 18-year career.

It’s a door closed.

The legacies of many of the league’s finest are calling it quits. Lions’ wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Raiders’ cornerback Charles Woodson and Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch are making their way out of the league.

Manning is yet to announce whether or not any return is a possibility, but the 39-year-old’s body faces his biggest challenger in father time.

In post-game celebration, Manning ignored the questions of his return. Other celebratory priorities stand in the way of naming this moment his final.

He plans to drink a lot of beer, he reiterated again and again.

It was plagued to be the biggest game of epic proportions. The quarterback showdown rivaled the old school pocket passing tradition excelled by Manning, the size and athleticism of the scrambling Cam Newton.

The game was anything but.

Newton recorded a mere 245 passing yards. He couldn’t connect. His only impressive connection powered into the right hand of Broncos’ safety T.J. Ward.

The Denver defense pressured Carolina’s only hope. A brigade of hands challenged Newton on every possession. He fell back baring the end zone, a strip-sack from Von Miller awaited him.

Diving on the ball, Malik Jackson landed in the end zone and scored.

The Broncos challenged critics; they boasted a 10-point lead in the first quarter.

With the game on the line, his team down six, Cam delivered. Well, kind of.

He delivered the ball directly into the hands of Von Miller, yet again. A second strip-sack from Miller gave the Broncos field position in the red zone. Close enough to pound the ball in for their first offensive touchdown of the game, C.J. Anderson dived for a two-yard touchdown.

The 39-year-old veteran couldn’t do much better. Manning completed 141 yards on 13 attempts. His only highlight came as a two-point conversion completion to Bennie Fowler in the fourth quarter.   

It was anything but an impressive finish to what will hopefully be the closing of No. 18’s 18-year career.

Von Miller was named the MVP of the game. Miller recorded five solo-tackles and two and a half sacks. His two strip-sacks swayed the game tempo back in favor of the Broncos, ending any drive Ron Rivera could poetically craft.

Super Bowl 50 made us remember the greats who have challenged the sport, changed it and helped improve it.

Manning pushed the game to it’s boundaries and now the history books are closed. It’s a legacy etched in NFL glory. Manning hoists the Lombardi Trophy for the second time.

It’s a time for reflection. The greatest are taking a seat, the field opening to a new generation.

Fifty years. Fifty years and not a grim moment etched within them. Fifty years of treasured moments, rising stardom, glory and grief.

Fifty years, it’s sure been fun.