Panthers must overhaul offense after Manning seals legacy


Super Bowl 50 was meant to be a coronation. The NFL world expected this to be the Carolina Panthers' moment, the crowning glory at the end of a year that has seen them become the darlings of the league.

Instead Cam Newton's party was crashed in emphatic style by the defense of the Denver Broncos, who throttled the Panthers' potent offense to seal a 24-10 victory at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.

It was a devastatingly brilliant performance from Denver's defensive unit, which made sure that - if this was to be Peyton Manning's 'last rodeo' - then the legendary quarterback will go out on a high.

Manning, who was non-committal on rumours of retirement during the post-game celebrations, did little more than lean on the defense and effectively manage the game, although he did commit two turnovers.

But the 39-year-old can now rest easy knowing, with two Super Bowl titles to his name, that his legacy as one of the all-time greats is now secure.

For Newton and the Panthers, however, the battering they took at the hands of the Broncos and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, whose two strip sacks of the Carolina quarterback led to both Denver touchdowns, leaves them with plenty to consider going into the offseason.

Indeed, for all the dominance the Panthers enjoyed in the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs, Carolina now goes into the offseason with serious questions about what had long been perceived to be their biggest flaw, the offensive line.

Carolina's linemen were unable to cope with the speed and power of Miller and DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge, with Denver recording seven sacks and forcing the Panthers into four turnovers.

It was a startling failure for the league's best offense and Newton was not helped by his cast of no-name wide receivers, who dropped a number of passes as Carolina struggled to find any sort of rhythm.

Kelvin Benjamin, a first-round draft pick in 2014, will look to re-establish himself as the Panthers' top receiver in the 2016 season after missing all of this campaign through injury.

Yet for the NFC rivals watching the Super Bowl from home, the Panthers' struggles up front and in getting the ball to their playmakers will have served as a welcome reminder that Carolina does have exploitable weaknesses.

Carolina's front office staff will likely allow the dust to settle before making to plans to address the holes Miller and the Broncos so brutally exposed with another excellent showing.

The Broncos will have their own issues to address in the offseason. Miller is a free agent and will likely command a lucrative contract extension while Manning's seemingly imminent retirement is going to leave Denver with a decision to make as to what to do at the quarterback position.

Manning's return as starter was hardly a ringing endorsement for Brock Osweiler - who took over for the injured veteran in mid-season - only to then make his way back to the bench in Week 17.

Denver must decide whether Osweiler showed enough to take Manning's place as the starter in 2016 and - if the Broncos believe that is not the case - then the newly crowned Super Bowl champions may be left looking to a quarterback draft class lacking in depth to find their successor to the future Hall of Famer.

At the moment such concerns will be far from the mind of general manager John Elway and the Broncos, whose focus will be on celebrating one of the most improbable Super Bowl triumphs in recent memory.