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Five Plays That Determined Super Bowl 50

Find out which five plays doomed the Carolina Panthers.

Mark Gunnels

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Can you believe the NFL season is over?

It feels like we were just analyzing teams during training camp and preseason. Nonetheless, with the off-season staring us in the face, instead of discussing potential free-agent signings, potential trades, or the draft, this is a day where we reflect on the Super Bowl.

As the Denver Broncos celebrate their third Super Bowl title, the Carolina Panthers are sitting back wondering what happened.

When looking at the box score, one thing that clearly stands out is Carolina’s four turnovers.

However, there were five key moments that you may have forgot about during Super Bowl 50, but these situations in particular played into the demise of Carolina.

Peyton to Caldwell on the opening drive – Heading into Super Bowl 50, many were skeptical of Denver’s ability to score against this vaunted Carolina defensive unit.

While the Broncos didn’t light the world on fire offensively, Peyton Manning and company set the tone on their opening drive.

As Denver methodically moved the ball down the field, on a pivotal third and four from their own 38-yard-line, Manning completed a 22-yard pass to Andre Caldwell to put the Broncos in field-goal range.

Even though it only led to three points, just the fact Denver put up points on the opening drive was a big enough statement to start the contest and added to the obvious nerves of the young Panthers.

Jordan Norwood’s longest punt return in SB History – As both offenses were struggling to get into a rhythm, Broncos punt returner Jordan Norwood made history.

The Panthers special teams unit was fully expecting Norwood to call for a fair catch, but unfortunately for them Norwood wound up returning the punt 61 yards, which is a Super Bowl record.

Denver ended up earning another three points, which extended their lead to 13-7.

Poor Clock Management to End Half – The Carolina Panthers were looking to carry some momentum into the locker room, despite beginning their final drive of the first half at their own 19-yard-line with 1:55 remaining.

Cam Newton and company were able to get into Denver’s territory before looking completely unaware of the situation.

The only problem was Carolina’s poor clock management heading into the half, which put their offense in a bad position. They didn’t have any urgency and failed to get out of bounds and/or use their remaining timeouts properly.

Now, the question is how much blame should Newton and head coach Ron Rivera get?

I think it’s fair to say they both share the blame and to make matters worse, the possession ended with DeMarcus Ware sacking Newton to run the clock out.

Jerricho Cotchery drop leads to missed Field Goal – Yes, it’s easy to blame Panthers kicker Graham Gano for missing his 44-yard field goal early in the third quarter.

However, no one is really talking about Cotchery’s drop on 2nd and 11, which would have setup a more manageable third down and even if Carolina was still unable to get the first down, it would’ve been a much easier kick for Gano.

This is just one of the few drops from Cotchery on the night.

Josh Norman Holding – The final couple of minutes essentially turned into a party for ‘Broncos Nation’, as the game was over once they took a 24-10 lead.

With that in mind, don’t forget what lead to Denver’s game-sealing touchdown score.

On a crucial third and four at Carolina’s four-yard-line with a little over three minutes to go, star cornerback Josh Norman was called for holding on a pass that went well over the head of Demaryius Thomas.

That penalty gave Denver first and goal from the two-yard-line, where C.J. Anderson would power his way into the end zone.

Denver forced many of Carolina’s mistakes, but unforced errors kept the team from making an entertaining game.

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.

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