The Denver Broncos are decided underdogs heading into Super Bowl 50, as the Carolina Panthers are favored by nearly a touchdown. Still, Bart Scott believes that Peyton Manning must win this game to cement his legacy as perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time.
“He need this Super Bowl, or the Denver Project has been a failure,” the NFL on CBS analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “This was a playoff team, he went out there, they gave him every weapon he wanted – he said this is the best skill players he’s ever had. It’s definitely the best defense he’s ever had. If he can’t get it done, yeah, he’s a great quarterback, but he’ll go down as one of the greatest regular season quarterbacks of all time, but he’s not going to be in the discussion with Tom Brady if he can’t win two.”
Brian Jones, for one, believes that the narrative on Manning’s arm – that No. 18 has lost a ton of velocity – has been overblown. He thinks that Manning’s arm, while certainly not what it once was, still has enough juice to keep defenses honest.
Scott isn’t so sure.
“He’s using Jedi mind tricks,” Scott said. “Listen, he doesn’t have a lot of zip on the ball. You talk about the drops on the receivers – a lot of times the drops are from the receivers because the ball’s coming to them like a helicopter. So they’re having problems adjusting to the ball. He’s having to get the ball out of his hands very quickly. He’s only completing 25 percent of his balls that’s 20 yards or deeper. That’s tough. So that means that Panthers defense is going to crowd the line of scrimmage, and that offense line is going to have to stand up. At some point, he’s going to have to hit something deep to get their respect. He’s going to have to find a matchup. I think the matchup is trying to attack those safeties with Owen Daniels or some way.”
Daniels, as you may recall, had a pair of touchdown receptions in the AFC Championship against New England. The first one, from 21 yards out, gave the Broncos a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, and the second one, from 12 yards out, gave them a 14-6 lead in the second quarter. Denver ultimately won, 20-18.
Scott, however, believes those touchdown throws had less to do with Manning’s arm strength and more to do with Daniels beating Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins in coverage.
“At the end of the day, that’s still a linebacker against a tight end, and usually most tight ends in this league are going to win that matchup,” Scott said. “That was the difference in the game.”
Either way, Manning will need to utilize Daniels, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders if the Broncos hope to have any chance against the Panthers, who are 17-1 and have led by 27+ points in each of their last three games. Sanders had five catches for 62 yards against New England, while Thomas limited to two catches for 12 yards.
Thomas has just six catches for 52 yards this postseason. Sanders has 10 for 147.