We couldn't have hoped for a much better matchup for Super Bowl 50. If the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers aren't the two best teams in the NFL, they're very, very close. Both entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC, respectively. Both won Sunday by doing everything they do best.
For the Broncos, that meant harassing the quarterback. Tom Brady threw two interceptions. One was a terrible throw that Von Miller happily snagged. He was frequently forced out of the pocket (sometimes it worked out for him) and looked like an awkward dad trying to dance while searching out open receivers. The Pats never seemed settled. Their Surface tablets malfunctioned briefly in the first half and Bill Belichick changed hoodies to try to create some better juju to no avail.
The game swung for the Broncos in part because Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, one of the most accurate kickers ever, missed his first extra point in nine years. The Patriots had to go for two points after scoring a late touchdown on fourth down, and didn't convert, sealing a 20-18 win for the Broncos. The Internet reacted with an avalanche of Crying Jordan memes.
The Panthers won because of Cam Newton and turnovers. Newton accounted for four touchdowns in the 49-15 blowout of the Arizona Cardinals. He looked like Superman diving over Cardinals players. Perhaps more impressive was a defense that forced one of the best offenses in the NFL to commit seven turnovers. Luke Kuechly's pick-six in the fourth quarter was the icing. Fans were so excited they were literally falling out of the stands to celebrate.
The beatdown was so bad, the Cardinals Twitter account Crying Jordan-ed themselves. Newton celebrated by yelling himself hoarse. Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was, as always, unmoved.
The next two weeks can't go by fast enough.
THEY SORRY: After the Broncos' win, Aqib Talib trash talked the Chiefs, a team that wasn't even playing Sunday. Hey, he's going to the Super Bowl, he's earned the right.
TED GINN: Ginn was forced to become the Panthers' No. 1 receiver this season, and he has been much better than expected in the role. He was one of the best players on the field Sunday, scoring an electrifying touchdown in the first quarter, saving an interception return touchdown by running down Patrick Peterson from his own goal line and doing Cam Newton proud by giving his touchdown ball to an adorable little girl.
THOMAS DAVIS: Davis was on his way to a monster game. He set the tone early by punishing Cardinals running back David Johnson for daring to take a pitch. Unfortunately, Davis had to leave in the second quarter after suffering a fractured forearm. Davis is one of the toughest players in the NFL. He says he's going to do everything he can to play in Santa Clara, and there's no reason to doubt him.
THE MVP VS. THE SHERIFF: Super Bowl 50 couldn't feature a much more tantalizing quarterback matchup. In one corner, there's the younger, energetic MVP candidate. In the other, the wizened, creaky veteran. Cam Newton found out he was going up against Peyton Manning after he beat the Cardinals and couldn't contain his excitement.
SUNNY WITH A SIDE OF BRADY'S TEARS: Buffalo news stations are enjoying the hell out of the Patriots' loss.
THE STATE OF THE PATRIOTS OL: It's ... not strong.
MOCK DRAFT: This week's mock has a look at all the options for every team in the first round.
CARSON PALMER IS A REGULAR SEASON QB: A Cardinals fan confronts a bitter end to what was an otherwise incredible season.
PEYTON MANNING HAS THE CUTEST KID: Just look at the little guy hanging out with has dad at the postgame press conference.
LORD OF THE FLIES: Cam gave away a touchdown ball to a group of kids and things got heated as they fought for it. Naturally, the kid in the Auburn hat got it in the end.
GOOD GUY CAM: Cam Newton warmed up while wearing shoes that had all of his teammates' written names on them. Write a letter about THAT, Concerned Mothers of America.
FIX THIS, NFL: Rob Gronkowski almost hurt himself slipping on concrete surrounding Sports Authority Field. Why is there still hard concrete in a place where players can land?
THE BEST PIECE OF SPORTS MEMORABILIA EVER: SB Nation's Jacob Price has a very sweet Grandma who gives him very weird Christmas gifts like a framed commemorative portrait of Peyton Manning and John Elway.
SAN DIEGO RAIDERS? Non-playoff things also happened. SB Nation's Adam Stites looked at the possibility that the Raiders could take over the vacated market in San Diego if the Chargers join the Rams in Los Angeles.
RAHEEM MORRIS ... COACHING OFFENSE? The Falcons are trying something VERY unorthodox, moving Raheem Morris, a career defensive coach, to the offensive side of the ball where he'll look after wide receivers and coordinate the passing game. As a longtime defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, Morris probably has a strong grasp of passing concepts ... but this is definitely an experiment.
MANNING FACE: We may not get to enjoy many more Manning Faces. Treasure each and every one.