SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Denver Broncos got a ton of big plays in the first half of Super Bowl 50.
Von Miller made a Superman-esque play to strip Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and the Broncos recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. They got the longest punt return in Super Bowl history on a weird play in which the Panthers thought the play was dead. The Broncos got a huge fumble recovery after Darian Stewart hit Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert in Denver territory. They did a great job containing Newton, the NFL’s MVP.
And all those breaks resulted in just a 13-7 lead at halftime. Ho hum.
It should have been more. The most damaging play of the first half came when defensive end Kony Ealy made a one-handed interception with the Broncos threatening to score. Peyton Manning made a bad mistake, seemingly not seeing Ealy drop into coverage, and Ealy made a spectacular play.
That summed up the first half. The underdog Broncos had opportunities. And they didn’t do enough with them.
On the flip side, the Panthers didn’t play well at all in the first half but had to feel OK that the Broncos didn’t have a bigger lead. Newton struggled to throw the ball, but the Broncos defense played a huge role in that. He was 8 of 19 for 95 yards passing. Newton did have some big gains on the ground, with 46 yards on five attempts. But Carolina, which led the NFL in scoring during the regular season, only had one touchdown in the first half. With the Panthers hoping to get a field-goal chance to end the first half, DeMarcus Ware crushed Newton on a sack and that was the last play of the first half.
The Broncos scored the first 10 points. The Broncos took the opening drive of the game deep into Carolina territory, but stalled and settled for a field goal. Miller made a great play that led to the game’s first touchdown, stripping and sacking Newton. Malik Jackson fell on the fumble in the end zone and the Broncos led 10-0. The Broncos also turned Jordan Norwood’s long punt return into just a field goal too, after a fourth-down conversion was nullified because of holding.
The Broncos led at halftime of Super Bowl 50. But it didn’t feel like they maximized their chances.
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