Manning vs. Newton: Super Bowl 50’s QBs Side By Side
By Burt Carey
They both stand 6’5” and love to throw the football. And there’s where the comparisons begin and end for the starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl 50.
Peyton Manning, at age 39, is the Denver Broncos storied grand old man signal caller, a veteran of 18 seasons and holder of a passer rating that has slipped nearly 60 points in the last decade.
The 26-year-old upstart Cam Newton carried the Heisman Trophy with him when he left Auburn in 2010 for the electric atmosphere of Charlotte, N.C., and its Carolina Panthers.
When the Broncos arrive in Santa Clara next week, it will be in preparation of their eighth Super Bowl, and Manning will be looking for his second championship ring. He won his first – and the Super Bowl MVP trophy – by leading the Indianapolis Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI. He’s been to the big dance twice more since then, and may be looking at the final shot of his career.
It will be Carolina’s second Super Bowl appearance in its 21-year history. The Panthers lost to the New England Patriots 32-29 a dozen years ago, when Newton was attending Westlake High School in Atlanta.
The NFL’s marquee golden anniversary championship game couldn’t have asked for a better storyline to draw the interest of football fans and single-day Super Bowl fans throughout the world. It’s the sly old fox versus the crowd-seducing lightning bolt, the traditional drop-back passer against a new breed of quarterback who’s just as adept with his arm as he is his legs.
Recovering from major neck surgery and written off by the Indianapolis Colts in 2011, Manning was simply sensational in his return to football in 2012 and 2013, amassing passer ratings of 105.8 and 115.1, respectively. He threw for 55 touchdowns in 2013, and then followed it up with 4,727 yards of passing and a 101.5 passer rating the next season.
Ironically, this is the year Manning put it all together and led the Broncos to the Super Bowl again, despite a career-low passer rating of just 67.9. Injuries limited him to just 10 games this season, but he still threw for more than 2,200 yards.
Newton’s stats tell of a young quarterback on the rise. His 99.4 passer rating is a career high that goes along with another career high: 35 touchdowns through the air. What makes the Panthers star such a challenge for opposing teams’ defenses is that he can run the ball too. He rushed for 636 yards this season and amassed 10 touchdowns, second only to his rookie season (2011) of 14.
With their season statistics compared side-by-side on paper, it would appear the Newton and the Panthers have a huge advantage over Manning and the Broncos. But Newton will be facing the NFL’s top-rated defense, and Manning is protected by a stingy front line that’s allowed only 1.5 sacks per game. So while the world watches two premier quarterbacks, one nearing the end of his career, the other just getting started, Super Bowl 50 is as likely to be won in the trenches as it is through aerial attack.
Super Bowl 50 will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers, on Feb. 7, with kickoff at 6:30 p.m. It will be televised worldwide by CBS.