Super Bowl 50 brings together the best NFL defense and one of the most well-rounded teams in recent memory as the Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers this Sunday. The contest will also be the stage for one of the biggest contrasts in NFL football. Cam Newton, the spry, ridiculously athletic quarterback of the Carolina Panthers is the polar opposite of the increasingly immobile Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. There is also the issue of age and race. Newton is African-American and young, while Peyton Manning, who is Caucasian, is in the twilight of his career.
Recently, Cam Newton said, via NFL.com, "But I said that I'm not a person that can necessarily be labeled, because when I was coming out I was labeled to guys that are no longer in this league. And I didn't mean it to come off as a race thing. I didn't mean it to come off as anybody that's being brash or flamboyant about a specific question. I was just saying facts. I'm hoping to be a trailblazer to not give an avenue not only to African-American quarterbacks but athletic quarterbacks as well. You can be Caucasian. You can be any type of ethnicity outside of African American and that's what I was trying to preach."
Both offenses have something in common, however-- a reliance on the run game, a welcome throwback to times when the NFL wasn't fraught with pass-happy offenses and reliant on star receivers. Though the Denver Broncos have the best NFL defense, the Panthers defense is also stellar, under the guidance of head coach and defensive mastermind Ron Rivera, and a slew of competent position coaches.
The combination of a strong run game and stalwart defense hearkens back to the Golden Age of the Steelers, when an impenetrable defense and bulldozer-like running were the stuff of legends. Now, the strength of the Steelers lies in their dynamic and pass-oriented offense, led by Ben Roethlisberger and an army of incredibly talented and productive receivers.
Super Bowl 50 should be a showcase between two very different quarterbacks, but also fundamentally similar teams, teams that recall a grittier, steelier time in the NFL when the fiercest battles played out on the ground.