It's the most memorable image from Super Bowl 50, the ball trickling around on the ground, Cam Newton standing over it but for some reason electing not to dive.
The Newton fumble, one of two caused by Broncos pass rusher Von Miller, wound up being recovered by Broncos safety T.J. Ward at the Panthers' 4-yard line with just over four minutes left in the game. That set up a game-sealing touchdown run by Denver running back C.J. Anderson, followed by a two-point conversion to give the Broncos a 24-10 lead.
Replays appeared to show Newton giving up on the play instead of diving for the loose ball, an act which did not go unnoticed by members of the Broncos defense.
"I don't know, maybe he needed to stay healthy for next year," Ward said. Other NFL players, such as Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Frank Clark, criticized Newton on social media, as well.
Newton didn't discuss the play -- or much of anything -- during the postgame press conference and has since been accused of quitting on his team by many fans and analysts.
The Panthers, however, stuck up for Newton.
Olsen: If anyone wants to question Cam putting his body on the line, they obviously haven't watched up and that narrative is comical— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) February 9, 2016
On Monday, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and center Ryan Kalil both attempted to dispel that notion.
"Cam's not the quitting type," Kalil said in a phone interview with the Charlotte Observer. "So, this idea or this notion that he quit on us is garbage. I think it's absolute garbage. That's not who he is."
Rivera echoed Kalil's statement, and attempted to explain what Newton was trying to do.
"I think he was looking for the rebound. When that group of guys came diving in, when it ricocheted backwards, he tried to turn and get after the ball," Rivera said to Pro Football Talk Live. "When you look at the circumstances he was looking at, I have no problem with that."
Newton didn't deny that he didn't try to dive on the ball, but he said the angle was tricky and the fumble was not the reason the Panthers lost:
Cam: "I don't dive on 1 fumble because the way my leg was-- it could have been (contorted) in a way. OK, you say my effort. I didn't dive...— Joe Person (@josephperson) February 9, 2016
"...down. I fumbled. That's fine. But we didn't lose that game because of that fumble. I can tell you that" -- Cam— Joe Person (@josephperson) February 9, 2016
took the blame for the loss, saying he and the rest of the offensive line didn't do enough to protect Newton and allow him to get into a rhythm.
Rivera also added that he had no problem with the way in Newton handled himself after the loss and during the postgame press conference. Newton finished the game 18-of-41 passing for 265 yards. He was sacked six times and turned the ball over three times.
"The one thing about Cam that I think a lot of people have to understand is he hates to lose," Rivera said. "He really does. And a lot of great ones have that."
* * *
Cutting It Short: Cam Newton walks out of his postgame interview
Be sure to subscribe to SB Nation's YouTube channel for highlight videos, features, analysis and more