Cam Newton said that the world has never seen a quarterback like him before, with his linebacker size and cornerback speed, his ruthlessness when running the rock and the way he accented everything with a dance and a ball delivery to a kid in the stands. He was transforming himself into the ultimate NFL brand of the future and it was happening right before our eyes.
Super Bowl 50 by most accounts, was supposed to be simply the icing on the cake and affirmation that there was a new sheriff in town. It was supposed to be Killa Cam’s coming out party as the best signal caller in the business.
Before Super Bowl 50 had played out, everyone was ready to hand him the reigns.
Forget the fact that Russell Wilson went to back-to-back Super Bowls the past two seasons, Newton was the black QB who everyone crowned king before the actual coronation.
A coronation that was ruined by a Denver Broncos defense that turned it up, shutting down Carolina’s group of subpar receivers and harassing Newton and disrupting his funk flow more than any team in the past 19 games.
In reality, it was Carolina that had never seen anything like the Denver defense before. When the smoke cleared, Manning and his Broncos were 24-10 champs, fueled by the play of MVP linebacker Von Miller, who finished with 2.5 sacks and 5 tackles and was as unstoppable on D in Super Bowl 50 as Newton's been on offense this season.
This was a game of styles, and Denver forced the Panthers into playing their style. If this was basketball, the Broncos executed their preferable halfcourt set to perfection. It slowed down Carolina’s fast-paced offense and kept the ball out of Newton’s hands.
“We’ll be back,” Newton said in the postgame press conference before darting off the podium and avoiding any further questioning. “We got outplayed. We got outplayed, bro.”
His dejected and sullen demeanor was reminiscent of his early years with the Panthers. The outcome was too. Newton was sacked seven times, fumbled twice and threw an interception and he fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter.
After the loss, he was speechless, which was also something new for the 2015 Carolina Black Panthers.
Everything seemed a bit strange from the beginning. Cam never flashed that million dollar smile that w’eve grown accustomed to seeing. Throughout the season, in times of despair, it has served as a subtle sign that everything will be O.K.
No one dabbed. There were no souvenirs for young fans after Newton flew into the end zone. There was one air sighting and that was Jonathan Stewart leaping over Denver’s D for the only Panthers TD early in the second quarter.
At that point, Panthers fans had to be feeling optimistic, because Denver’s offense wasn’t catching wreck. It was a ball-control situation and Denver’s defense did more to contribute offensively by providing good field position for Manning’s men.
“It’s only a matter of time” was the collective chant from Panthers fans gathered in bars and parties. But Newton’s smile never emerged and neither did a sustained Carolina offensive attack.
Cam had become a pop-culture icon almost overnight, leading up to the Super Bowl. As much as he grinned and calmly handled the questions and concocted narratives at every turn by an aggressive media, it had to take its toll on the 26-year-old.
Moreover, he wins the NFL MVP award on the eve of the biggest game of his life. It’s a great award, but it definitely didn’t help ease his nerves leading into America’s most watched sporting event.
The pressure was evident on his face. He remained stoic, but his demeanor was tense. Cam sensed the dangers of this game, but he probably had played a winning scenario in his head over a thousand times.
I’m sure he thought he was prepared for what was coming, but he never seemed to exhale. He never had that moment where it was obvious he was settling into a groove, which tells me he was thinking too much.
He played jittery and couldn’t live up to the hype on Sunday night, but Carolina can reload and be back next year.
It’s just the beginning for Cam and The Black Panthers. The movement was birthed this season and the cameras are going to stay shining as long as Cam is behind center.
This Super Bowl loss won’t affect his marketability or his robust jersey sales. Most people are looking towards what he will accomplish in the future.
Next season, however, he may need to tone it down a touch. Come back with a bit more humility and avenge a crushing loss to a Denver team that went from an afterthought to a champion in this Super Bowl 50 saga.