NFL: Back-line set to have final say

Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers participates in drills during practice prior to Super Bowl 50.
Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers participates in drills during practice prior to Super Bowl 50.PHOTO: AFP

NFL Super Bowl 50 could be a classic with focus on quarterbacks Newton and Manning

SAN FRANCISCO • The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are primed to provide a grand finish worthy of a landmark Super Bowl 50 today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) and cap a season of celebration by the National Football League (NFL).

An estimated 190 million Americans and a worldwide TV audience are set to tune in for a game that has the hallmarks of an instant classic, as Carolina's top-ranked offence clashes with Denver's No. 1 defence in a Silicon Valley showdown for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The game will feature two generational talents on offence with Carolina quarterback Cam Newton on the cusp of greatness and five-time NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning playing what could be his last game. But the victor will likely be determined by defence.

"Our defence has just been exceptional all season long," noted Manning.

"They are the reason we're here and, like I said a couple of weeks ago, I'm just glad that I don't have to play against them this year because they are that good."

Still, the spotlight will not stray far from the two quarterbacks who bring contrasting styles and personalities to the championship game.

MAGICAL SHOWDOWN

You got a guy who's got a combination of everything.

GARY KUBIAK, Broncos coach, on the Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

I feel like I have a good understanding of the significance of playing in the 50th Super Bowl.

PEYTON MANNING, Broncos quarterback.

Newton, 26, is a flashy, brash imposing quarterbacking cyborg who can beat an opponent with his arm and his feet. With a victory, the Panthers would find themselves with an 18-1 record, a Super Bowl and in the discussion about the greatest NFL teams of all time.

Manning, meanwhile, is a cerebral 39-year-old quarterbacking genius with an off-the-charts football IQ who operates primarily from the pocket.

A Denver defence that led the NFL in sacks can expect a long evening trying to contain Newton, while Manning will engage in a chess match with a Panthers defence spearheaded by All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly that led the league in takeaways.

"He (Newton) is a special talent, a rare talent," said Broncos coach Gary Kubiak. "I mean, you look at some of the great throwers in this league with (New England Patriots) Tom (Brady) and (Green Bay Packers) Aaron (Rodgers) and those type of guys, and then now you got a guy who's got a combination of everything.

"Not only beating people with his arm but with his feet, his ability to move around."

During the regular season, the Panthers were an offensive juggernaut averaging a league-high 31 points a game.

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In the play-offs, they have been even more explosive in piling up 80 points in two routs, including a 49-15 battering of the Arizona Cardinals in the National Football Conference Championship game that sent them through to their second Super Bowl.

This has been far from a vintage year for Manning, who missed six consecutive starts due to a heel injury. And when he did return, for the first time in his Hall of Fame career he stood on the sidelines - as backup to Brock Osweiler.

Manning, who once threw seven touchdowns in a game, had just nine in 10 games this season offset by 17 interceptions, as questions over his age and diminishing arm strength loomed.

But like every great drama there are twists and in the regular-season finale, he came on in relief of Osweiler to lead the Broncos to a win, then steered Denver to narrow play-off victories over the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England.

"I feel like I have a good understanding of the significance of playing in the 50th Super Bowl," said Manning, who will be appearing in his fourth NFL title game.

"This is a unique and special opportunity and obviously we're going to take advantage of it."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 07, 2016, with the headline 'BACK-LINE SET TO HAVE FINAL SAY'. Print Edition | Subscribe