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Super Bowl preview: Denver Broncos must consistently pressure Cam Newton

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In this final installment, we come to the most important key to the game for the Denver Broncos. Getting consistent pressure on Cam Newton. In the table below we have where these teams are currently performing over the last four games and where they would have ranked in the NFL for 2015.

Carolina Panthers
Sunday, February 7, 2016 - 4:25 PM MT
Denver Broncos

AVG. YPA (RNK)

LAST 4 GMS

AVG. YPA (RNK)

7.95 (5th) Pass Off. 6.69 (28th)
4.32 (10th) Rush Off. 4.58 (6th)
6.97 (11th) Pass Def. 6.11 (1st)
3.65 (5th) Rush Def. 3.54 (3rd)
17-1 Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, CA 14-4
NFC Champion Spread: Panthers by 6 AFC Champion
Super Bowl Previews: DT getting physical Stopping the Read/Option Broncos must run Sacking Cam

The worst possible thing that could happen in Super Bowl 50 for the Denver Broncos is for Cam Newton to have all day to throw the ball. If it happens, the Carolina Panthers are going to get themselves a blowout win. For the Broncos, it will come down to forcing Newton into obvious passing situations - then tee off on him.

The key for Wade Phillips is to scheme the Broncos defense in a way that forces a lot of third and longs for Newton and the Panthers offense. During the season, Newton had one of the worst completion rates on third down in the entire NFL, beating out only Nick Foles of all qualified quarterbacks.

Easier said than done, as the Panthers have a fairly unique rushing scheme and Newton is always a threat to run out of the pocket for huge gains. The Broncos defense will have to be both insanely disciplined and aggressive. The two are usually mutually exclusive, but the Broncos have enough talent at every position to pull it off.

Like in the AFC Championship game against Tom Brady, it will come down to pressure.

Cam Newton is a tough guy to sack, but he can be pressured and if the Broncos can pressure him early and often you will find him steadily progress in the wrong direction. Let's examine the Panthers loss to the Atlanta Falcons late in the regular season to see that progression.

The Panthers opened up the game with a dominating drive down the field for a touchdown, but the game was entirely different after that.

It started during a drive early in the second quarter in subsequent plays to end a potential scoring opportunity for the Panthers. On second down, Cam is pressured up the middle. He escapes, but is forced to throw the ball away.

Then on third down, the Falcons send two guys. Two. The pressure didn't really get there, but Cam appeared to feel it based on how he chucked the ball quickly off his back foot - missing a wide open receiver badly.

Later in that same quarter, the pressure continued. This time, on third down and long just outside of field goal range, Cam feels the inside pressure and throws off his back foot again as he tries to protect his knees from the falling defender.

The result was a near interception, but the previously high-flying Panthers were pretty much grounded through half the game.

Cam is still the NFL's MVP, so he will fight through on some drives. After a fairly solid third quarter, the game was clearly on the line through the fourth. Newton was visibly frustrated with the pressure.

Needing a drive to tie the game, the pressure finally got to him in the worst way to seal the game for the Falcons to give the Panthers their first loss of the season.

Pressure is clearly the most important key to the game for the Broncos defense.

However, it's not the only key to the game when defending against Cam Newton. There is a second aspect to his game that a guy like Tom Brady simple doesn't have and that's what he can do with his legs.

The Panthers played a terrible game that day against the Falcons. The only reason they had a chance late in the game was because Newton willed them there.

A big part of that came from how he responded to pressure on passing plays. It is something the Broncos defense must stay disciplined with, because he will most certainly do it.

How that eight yard run didn't become NFL lore as Cam's own version of "beastmode" is beyond me. For a quarterback, even one of Cam's athletic abilities, to power through a horde of defenders for five more yards to get the first down is simply amazing.

I love this play because it drives home the emphasis of wrapping up and tackling. Cam is not going to go down easy. Defenders will need to drag him down.

Sometimes Cam will just run because he sees the defense is soft.

Based on the simple fact that the Broncos defense is the best in the NFL, I would expect to see Cam Newton trying to run a lot out of the pocket. The secondary is just too good and guys will be covered more often than not, so his safest alternative is to try and make something happen with his feet.

I'm not trying to downplay how well Cam Newton has played in 2015, but I am giving credit to a defense that has done its job all year long. Against every quarterback, except for one.

I don't see any Antonio Brown's on the Panthers side of the ball, so that means the Panthers may get 2-3 solid drives out of this game just like all of the other playoff-caliber teams the Broncos have faced this season.

The Broncos will have to make it count by keeping Newton in the pocket and tackling him quickly if he leaves it. If they can do that consistently, then the game really comes down to how well they can stop the run.

And I like those odds much better.