Caleb Bailey, Sports Editor
The 2015 NFL season has come down to this. Two powerhouse teams facing off in Santa Clara, California Sunday, Feb. 7, as Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers face off against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a Super Bowl matchup that seemingly no one expected.
On Sunday, January 24, the Broncos faced off against the New England Patriots for the AFC Championship as Manning met with Tom Brady for the fifth time in the playoffs, the 17th time overall and quite possibly the last time ever.
Manning’s 2015 season was the epitome of a roller coaster ride. He went from having one of the worst statistical seasons of his career to missing six weeks while dealing with a foot injury, to coming back and being an active backup for the first time since his freshman year at Tennessee in 1994.
Despite the adversity, the Broncos rode on the backs of their defense with cornerback Aqib Talib and linebacker Von Miller leading the way to an AFC West title and the number one seed in the conference.
It came to the AFC Championship Game and it seemed as though the Patriots would come up big in the clutch again after scoring a touchdown late. However, after an earlier-missed extra point by kicker Stephen Gostowski, the Patriots were forced to go for two and it fell short, giving the Broncos their second AFC Championship in three years.
In the NFC, it seemed abundantly clear that the Carolina Panthers, led by surefire MVP quarterback Cam Newton, were going to be playing in their first Super Bowl since 2003. They blazed a path through the playoffs, beating the two-time defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round and then met with the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game.
Newton took his one-loss Panthers on to a 49-15 victory over the Cardinals in a rematch of last year’s Wildcard Round game. The NFC South champions were up on the Cardinals from the get-go, jumping out to an early 17-0 lead that they never relinquished.
When the two teams make their way over to Levi’s Stadium in Northern California, they will both be looking for a big first. For the Broncos, they are looking for their first Super Bowl victory since 1999 in Super Bowl XXXIII.
For the Panthers, they are looking for their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history. The team was founded in 1995 and played in one Super Bowl, where they lost on a last-second field goal to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Manning is looking for his second Super Bowl ring in his fourth appearance in the game as well as looking to jump over the hump and match his younger brother, Eli, who has two with the New York Giants.
Newton is all too familiar with leading a championship-caliber offense while being considered the best player in the game. He led the Auburn Tigers to a BCS National Championship in 2010, while going 14-0 and winning the Heisman Trophy, college football’s most prestigious award.
The last time the Broncos made it to the Super Bowl, it ended in a 43-8 loss to the Seahawks. Many fans are hoping for a different result, regardless of if you are a Denver fan. For the Panther faithful, this is the chance they have been anticipating for over twenty years. All they want to see is #KeepPounding, while the Broncos cheer for Manning to have his last hurrah.