Two years ago I was cautiously optimistic. The Seahawks had a great defense, the Broncos had an great offense and I was looking forward to a great Super Bowl. That lead to a beat down as painful to watch as the Super Bowl XXIV thrashing.
This year I was guardedly pessimistic. All season long I had been saying that the Broncos didn’t need Peyton Manning at the height of his powers - they just needed Peyton to play at a replacement level and the defense could do the rest. Unfortunately, Peyton wasn’t able to play at a replacement level. The result was a game in which Denver never trailed, but kept me on the edge of my seat most of the game.
After obsessively reviewing the post game analysis, I subscribe to the theory that the Carolina coaching staff let their team down while the Denver staff understood how to the Broncos could/would win. With the Broncos unlikely to put together a long TD drive, it was imperative that the Panthers manage field position and not give the Broncos a short field. Instead the Panthers gave up a defensive touchdown on their second position and the Broncos were on their way.
I really think Carolina’s coaches didn’t appreciate the kind of game they were in, and it led to handing the Broncos their best chance to win the game. If Rivera and Co. had approached it with the sort of thinking that goes along with trying to win a game 16-13 or 13-9, all sorts of things might have been different. In particular, if Carolina approaches the game with the 1st principal being giving the Broncos zero chance to get a turnover on a very short field, the game might turn out different.