3 Ways Denver Can Stop Cam Newton in Super Bowl 50
Defense wins championships.
It's a saying older than I am, yet it's true by default in this year's Super Bowl, which features numberFire's first and second ranked defenses from the regular season.
Super Bowl 50 makes for a rather interesting case, though, because it also features the top scoring offense in the league in the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina's quarterback, Cam Newton, has been a revelation during the 2015 season, racking up the yards, touchdowns, and points on his way to a MVP finish.
How can the Denver Broncos defense stop Cam Newton? Well, there's not much of a blueprint to follow after the Panthers have only one blemish on their record (17-1).
However, these are three things that the Denver defense should emphasize in their game plan:
1. Slow Down the Running Attack
Stopping the run against the Panthers is a near-futile game plan. Carolina has rushed for over 100 yards in 27 straight games (31 including playoffs).
In those 27 regular season games where the Panthers were held under 125 rushing yards, their offense became less functional and stagnant.
Not only did their points per game drop, but also their overall offense's effectiveness per play dropped as well, measured by our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics. Net Expected Points are numberFire's signature statistic that quantifies the number of points a player adds to his team versus how he's expected to perform, thus giving a true measure of efficiency.
|Panthers||Passing Yards||Points per Game||Adj NEP/P|
|Less than 125 Rushing Yards||217.5||20.5||0.04|
|Over 125 Rushing Yards||215.7||31.2||0.08|
The passing statistics stayed about the same, but the Carolina offense dropped from 31.2 points per game down to 20.5. Their schedule-adjusted NEP per play also dropped, making the Panthers a below average offense.
Carolina fell from 0.08 Adjusted NEP per play down to 0.04 and below the league's average of 0.06 Adjusted NEP per play. This is indicative of just how much the Panthers' offense needs the running attack to execute properly in order to succeed.
The Broncos held 15 of their 16 opponents under 125 rushing yards, while also limiting 12 teams under their season rushing average. Denver ranks as our second-best rushing defense going against Carolina's third-ranked rushing offense. Slowing down the Panthers' rushing attack is imperative for the Broncos' defense to have success.
2. Create Pressure From the Outside
The Broncos have two of the league's premier pass rushers in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Denver led the NFL this year with 52 sacks, and they'll need their two biggest pass rushing playmakers to pressure from the edge continuously to keep Cam off his game.
The interior of the Panthers' offensive line is anchored by center Ryan Kalil and guard Trai Turner. The pair is a force to be reckoned with in both the passing and running game. Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe will hold crucial roles of occupying the interior of the line.
If there is a weakness of this offensive line, it's at the tackle position in pass protection. Michael Oher and Mike Remmers have given up a combined 70 pressures and 10 sacks according to Pro Football Focus. The Broncos lead the league by generating pressure on 35% of opposing quarterback drop backs according to ESPN Stats & Information. Ware and Miller combined for 18.5 sacks during the regular season -- half a sack fewer than the entire Atlanta Falcons' defense combined (19).
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips dialed up the blitz heavily during the regular season at a hefty 41.7% of the time. Only three other teams blitzed more often than Denver, who routinely gave opposing quarterbacks very little time to throw the ball.
Against the Steelers and the Patriots in the playoffs, the Broncos pass rush allowed Ben Roethlisberger just 2.11 seconds to throw the ball and Tom Brady only 2.31 seconds according to NFL.com's Next Gen Stats. Cam Newton averaged 2.83 seconds during the regular season. We should expect to see Phillips continuing to bring the heat with his two dynamic pass rushers.
Limiting the rushing attack should allow Miller and Ware to pin their ears back and attack the quarterback at the snap. Providing this relentless pressure will give less time for Cam to read the defenses and hopefully culminate in either a sack or turnover.
3. Generate Turnovers
The Broncos' defense was phenomenal in many categories this season, but forcing turnovers was not their best attribute.
|Passing Yards per Game||199.6||1st|
|Rushing Yards per Game||83.6||3rd|
|Total Yards per Game||283.1||1st|
Denver finished the year totaling 27 takeaways with 14 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries. While they weren't as outstanding as Carolina, who had a league-leading 39 takeaways, they proved to take advantage of mistakes when presented the opportunity.
Newton has 14 giveaways combined from interceptions and lost fumbles in the regular season this year. Ballhawks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. have played pivotal roles in Phillips' 3-4 defense. They'll need to continue their physical style of play that got them to the Super Bowl, while perhaps taking a few more chances on interceptions. Strip-sacks could also play a major role in this game, as we've already seen Von Miller come up with these types of takeaways in the blink of an eye earlier this season. Winning the turnover battle could be crucial to success in this game.
After throwing an interception in nine straight games prior to his injury leave, Peyton Manning has turned things around this postseason in that department. The Broncos haven't had any turnovers in the postseason so far and have come up with five takeaways in their two games played.
Winning the turnover battle has proven to be huge in the Super Bowl, with 35 of the past 49 winners leading in turnover differential. After giving up four turnovers in their last Super Bowl appearance, Manning knows the importance of protecting the ball and will need to emphasize that in conjunction with the Broncos' defense capitalizing on any of Newton's mistakes.
If the Denver defense can shut down the run and apply enough pressure on the outside to force mistakes from Newton, the Broncos could very likely find themselves hoisting the Lombardi trophy this Sunday.