The Not So Super Bowl

Super Bowl 50 was the hardest Super Bowl to watch of my lifetime. After years of being treated to great game after great game, the game was choppy and hard to watch, making the fact that I was emotionally invested in the losing team a formula for extreme frustration. The Panthers were the best team in football all year, had every chance to win the game and never came close to breaking through.

Essentially the game was Murphy's Law in action. Anything that could go wrong for Carolina, did.

It started early with the latest, and hopefully last, egregious interpretation of the catch rule in the NFL. The league has a disaster level problem, and it's not new. When average fans can't interpret a rule, you have a problem. When you have analysts who follow the league for a living, coaches and players who don't have a clue how one of the game's most basic pieces works, you're flat out incompetent for not fixing it.

That is the NFL catch rule. No one, except NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino, knows what a catch is, and most of the football world disagrees with his interpretation of the rule. Carolina challenged a call early last night that should've been overturned in the eyes of nearly all neutral, informed observers, yet it stayed an incompletion. Mere plays later, Von Miller beat Panthers right tackle Mike Remmers for the first time for a sack, fumble and touchdown recovery by the Broncos.

While it's easy to harp on the rule, and we should until it's changed for the good of the game, Cotchery had no business bobbling the ball in the first place. Carolina should've had an easy first down to get out of their own end, and maybe even throw a drive together, build some momentum, and completely change the game.

Mike Tolbert hadn't fumbled the ball since 2011. He fumbled twice Sunday night.

There was the bizarre punt return, where the Panthers had Jordan Norwood surrounded and then let him run, apparently thinking he had called fair catch.

There were numerous dumb penalties. Pre-snap penalties were consistent. There was a block in the back that took Carolina from guaranteed great field position near mid-field, all the way back inside their own 30.

Graham Gano missed a field goal for the first time in the playoffs.

There were other questionable to down right awful officiating moments, including a missed pass interference that would've been a 3rd down conversion inside the red zone as Bradley Roby mauled Ted Ginn well before the ball arrived. The Panthers settled for a field goal instead of a chance at touchdown to make the game 16-14.

I did not think the game was well coached either. The end of the first half was handled horrifically from a time management standpoint, which is partially on the coach and partially on the quarterback.

I despised the play-calling from Mike Shula, who has been outstanding in his run with the Panthers. He's an excellent coach, and if we could magically replay the game, I'd trust him to do things differently. He just didn't have a good day.

Denver's pass rush is outstanding and so is their secondary. A great way to mitigate both is to run Newton with essentially no regard for the injury risk you take in a regular season game. It's the Super Bowl. There can't be any level of holding back. Newton rushed the ball six times.

It should be noted that there were other called option plays where the Broncos dictated Newton hand the ball off, but there were zero designed quarterback keepers. That seems like a mistake to me. So was not using misdirection more effectively, both in the run and pass games.

The Panthers had the most diverse run game in the league this year, yet ran very simply against the Broncos. There was some basic read option and that's about it in terms of variety. In the pass game, there were a few wide receiver screens, but none that I can remember to running backs, which is a great way to take advantage of the Broncos aggression and speed on defense.

Yet despite all of those things, Carolina was in the game until the very end. If any of those things had gone differently, the end result might have too.

That's what made the game so frustrating. It felt like if the law of averages would have just kicked Murphy's Law out of the way for just a moment, Carolina could've come through. It did not. They did not.

That's not to take anything away from the Broncos though. They are a worthy champion. They fought through pretty remarkable quarterback adversity with ease, making the switch from Peyton Manning to Brock Osweiler and back seamlessly thanks to a historic defense.

For all the plays Carolina didn't make, the Broncos did. Von Miller was outstanding. DeMarcus Ware, who should've gotten more attention on the broadcast after waiting 11 years for a title, also made some incredible plays. They shut down Greg Olson, something that almost no other team was able to do this year.

In short, they needed to play their A-game and have Carolina help them out because of how poor their offense was. The Broncos defense played an A+ game and the Panthers made the requisite mistakes to send Peyton Manning out a winner.

Through orange colored glasses, that is the beauty of one game deciding a champion. You don't need to be better, you just need to be better for a day. The Broncos 100% were.

From the other side, that is the frustration. The Panthers were so close, yet not even.