The Denver Broncos earned their third Super Bowl victory by beating the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50. The Broncos’ path to football immortality was mostly characterized by a top-ranked defensive unit. However, the Broncos were also led by future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning who was in the final act of his career.
Let’s take a look at the Broncos’ season leading up to Super Bowl 50.
Feb. 8, 2016 — The Denver Broncos, and their fans, awoke as three-time Super Bowl Champions following the previous evening's 24–10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50! The ring the team earned and newspaper front pages from The @denverpost, @sfchronicle, and @nytimes: pic.twitter.com/LrJcBpFfkI— Mile High Moments (@MileHighMoments) February 8, 2024
Broncos 2015 regular season
The Broncos regular season leading up to their Super Bowl appearance was anything but smooth sailing
After multiple disappointing runs in the playoffs, the Broncos decided to part ways with head coach John Fox. Prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, the Broncos hired Gary Kubiak as their head coach. Kubiak was no stranger to the Broncos organization. He had spent his entire career as the backup quarterback to John Elway. From 1995 to 2005, Kubiak would be the Broncos offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
The Broncos kicked off the season with a statement win against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. Manning would lead a fourth-quarter comeback to secure a 19-13 victory.
The Kubiak era would get off to a great start as the Broncos would gallop out to a 7-0 start. The Broncos’ defense, anchored by stars like Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, consistently stifled opposing offenses. Their ability to pressure quarterbacks and force turnovers played a significant role in the team’s success.
The Broncos started to stumble a bit, and they’d drop two games in a row to the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs. The game against the Chiefs would end up being a key moment in the Broncos season, as Manning would end up being benched in favor of backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. Manning had seriously struggled in the game, throwing four interceptions before being pulled. It would later be revealed that Manning was dealing with a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot. Ironically in one of his worst games, Manning achieved a historic milestone by becoming the NFL’s all-time leader in career passing yards.
Manning would end up missing time to injury. Out goes Manning, in comes Osweiler. Osweiler stepped in and provided a spark for the Broncos. Osweiler’s performances helped keep the team competitive during Manning’s absence and showcased his potential as a future starter (this would eventually fool the Houston Texans into thinking he’s a franchise quarterback, but that is a whole different story.)
Honestly, Osweiler was a big reason why the Broncos remained in playoff contention. While aided by the stellar Broncos defense, Osweiler was still able to pull off some much-needed wins. In the final game of the season, Osweiler would struggle a bit. This game was a must-win for the Broncos. In what almost seemed like a scene from a movie, Manning would enter the game to much fanfare, and would lead the Broncos to a comeback victory against the then San Diego Chargers.
The Broncos would finish the season with a 12-4 record and would be the first seed in the AFC for the playoffs.
2015-16 playoff run
In the Divisional Round, the Broncos faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in a nail-biting contest. Despite Manning’s struggles and an injury to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Broncos managed to eke out a 23-16 victory, thanks in large part to their stout defense.
In the AFC Championship Game, the Broncos squared off against the New England Patriots in a highly anticipated showdown between Manning and his longtime rival, Tom Brady. Once again, Denver’s defense rose to the occasion, pressuring Brady relentlessly and limiting the Patriots’ offense. The game ended with a dramatic 20-18 victory for the Broncos, securing their spot in Super Bowl 50.
Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning FINAL MATCHUP Patriots vs Broncos 2015 AFC Championship ‼️ @Denver Broncos @New England Patriots @Tom Brady #broncos #patriots #manning #brady #eli #peytonmanning #tombrady #peytonmanning18 #tb12 #throwback #nflthrowback #throwbacknfl #football #americanfootball #nflfootball #nfl #oldnfl #nflplayoffs #afcchampionship #afcchamp #nfl2015 #nfl2016 #nfltiktok #nflmemes #fyp #foryou #gridionfootball♬ original sound - All Highlights
Super Bowl 50 recap
The matchup was set. The Broncos would be facing the 15-1 Carolina Panthers. Panther QB Cam Newton was named NFL MVP, and the Panthers also had the highest-scoring offense in the league. Needless to say, the Broncos’ 2015 offense paled in comparison to the Panthers’ offense. The Broncos looked to be seriously overmatched.
…or were they?
Von Miller and the Broncos’ defense had to put in their two cents.
Denver’s defense proved to be the difference-maker once again, sacking Newton multiple times and forcing turnovers throughout the game. The league’s best offense stalled and sputtered, and Newton looked like a shell of his MVP-self.
8 years ago today:— DNVR Broncos (@DNVR_Broncos) February 7, 2024
The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 pic.twitter.com/YhlAs9GxdG
Manning managed the offense efficiently and made plays when he needed to. The Broncos would beat the Panthers, 24-10.
Miller would be named Super Bowl MVP with his performance of six tackles, 2 ½ sacks, two forced fumbles, and two quarterback hurries.
The Broncos had their storybook ending. Kubiak led the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory in his first year as head coach, and Manning would get to go out on top and retire a champion.