Super Bowl 50 is in the books. I can’t say that I’m happy for Peyton winning a second title, in fact – and I know this is sour grapes – I’m still angry that the Patriots gave away that AFC Championship game. I’m actually still angry that #1 seeding was determined on a field in South Florida in a game that had nothing to do with the Broncos. I’m still angry that the Patriots lost twice this season to Denver. I’m angry that Manning misses 4 games because his toe hurt and he gets his fairy tale ending. I’m angry the Denver fans in the crowd booed Brady – stay classy Denver. As you can see, I’m pretty full of rage about the whole thing.
In the end though, as is often the case, the more resilient team won it all. History continues to be unkind to 15-1 teams in the Super Bowl, and particularly difficult for teams without effective leadership.
Denver’s defense was stifling. Denver’s offense was good enough. Carolina’s defense was good, but should have been better. Carolina’s offense was inept at best. In the end, that slithering snake of a defense, just curled up around Carolina’s throat and squeezed the life out of it.
In the games I saw Carolina play this season, I saw one consistent theme and it gave me pause. They would get off to a huge lead only to let the opponent back in the game. Like they would take the foot off the gas. That’s not something you see the Patriots do, because it’s a discipline thing and neither Coach Rivera nor Newton instilled this team with the discipline that would be necessary to win this game. Nothing about running up the score, it’s about discipline and leadership. In my best estimation, as the season rolled on, Newton got a little too comfortable. He should have been the leader of this team, but he was a cheerleader. Score a touchdown, kiss the biceps. Tear open his shirt like Superman. It’s fun to watch, but at the end of the day you have to back it up. Rivera did nothing to tamp down the side show, and let it continue.
By the second half of a Super Bowl, this should have been his team. He should have been able to say, “this is what we’re going to do,” and do it. The only time they moved the ball was when Newton moved it and yet they chose not to let him do it – barely tried. That’s a failure of pretty epic proportions, and a failure of leadership both for Coach Rivera and for Cam.
How do I back this up? Well, his demeanor after the game makes my point pretty well. I’ve seen plenty of teams lose that should have won – 18-1 mean anything to you? – but you have to be dignified. Take responsibility. Man up. Lead your team. Don’t skulk into the interview room late and act like a kid sent to the Principal’s office. THAT was the time for leadership.
If I’m a Carolina fan, I want to see a new attitude next season. I want to see a cold blooded killer instinct. I want to see a team that wants to finish and not be out there “having fun.”
Seattle remains really the lone challenger to Carolina next season. With that in mind, there is a good chance Carolina will be back next February – preparation for Super Bowl LI should begin this morning with Rivera and Newton working on their leadership skills.