Super Bowl 50 defies quarterbacks, made for three decades ago


Super Bowl 50 defies quarterbacks, made for three decades ago

In the end, Super Bowl L was not about Cam Newton OR Peyton Manning, no matter how hard the outside world tried. Manning’s career may have demanded a coda, and Newton’s career may have demanded a place to plant its flag (and stalking off a podium never plays well at this level), but Super Bowl L was a triumph of defense and defenders, of meteorology rather than botany, of the most elemental forms of the sport rather than single figures or incandescent deeds.

And the quarterbacks everyone wanted so desperately to fixate upon were either just along for the ride or target-rich environments for punishment. Even those who chose to opt out of the postgame punishment.

Indeed, the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10 without any discernible contributions from Manning or his compatriots, the Panthers were never in the game despite having the game’s most dynamic playmaker, and the narratives that fueled a largely uninspiring week of debate and rehash ended in shards.

This game made Von Miller a national name, at least for one night. The narrative police will force the talk down the quarterback aisles, of course, because America has been Stockholm Syndromed into believing that nobody else but quarterbacks ever matter, so Miller’s window as the game’s most valuable player will shut quickly enough, even though the only other possible candidates would have been his linebacking compatriot DeMarcus Ware and placekicker Brandon McManus. That’s how not about the quarterbacks this was.

[RELATED: Broncos linebacker Von Miller named Super Bowl 50 MVP]

Even Miller, who was clearly not in the mood to overemote afterward, understood there were lots of narrative masters to be served.

“It feels great (to help Manning and Ware win a Super Bowl). Peyton and DeMarcus and (defensive coordinator Wade) Phillips and all the guys who have been deserving their whole, whole career. I did it for them . . . for me, the highlight was when Mr. Elway held up the trophy and said ‘This is for Pat.’”

The last reference was to club president John Elway, who held the trophy aloft to salute owner Pat Bowlen, back in Denver and struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. Bowlen was the man who did the same to salute Elway when he won his first Super Bowl 18 years ago.

But even those encomiums don’t do the general tenor of the day true justice.

This was a cruel, harsh, unforgiving slog on a dodgy ground under a blanket of unseasonable heat, and it mostly dented offensive reputations. Miller gets a trophy, everyone gets a ring, but this story could best be told by you holding your arms out and allowing someone to run behind you and swinging downward with great force at the elbow.

Again, and again, and again.

[MAIOCCO: Final: Broncos' defense carries Manning to Super Bowl 50 win]

The Broncos sacked Newton seven times, held him to 45 rushing yards and more importantly only six carries. They forced four fumbles and recovered three, one for the game’s only meaningful touchdowns, intercepted one pass and held the Panthers to a mediocre 4.2 yards per play.

And they had to, because their own offensive numbers were so hideous. They managed only 191 total yards, converted only one of 14 third downs, and their longest drive was their first one – 64 yards that ended in McManus’ first field goal. Manning went out not so much on top but off to the side, and now people can argue to their hearts’ content whether winning this Super Bowl actually damaged his legacy.

Indeed, CBS seemed almost frantic in its repeated attempts to get him to confess that he would never play again, hoping for the elusive Bill Walsh breaking down in tears moment Brent Musburger captured in 1989. Manning sidestepped that one, as you knew he would, even announcing he intended “to drink a lot of beer” that Miller would pay for. For that alone, he should be forced to return.

As for Newton, his hell is just beginning. For all the people who needed him to be a polarizing figure this postseason, he ended as someone everyone could agree upon in this way – he was obliterated by the Denver defense. The swiftness with which the storylines gathering about him was standard/overwhelming – he didn’t win, or even come close to doing so, not because he couldn’t be Peyton Manning but because he couldn’t be himself.

[RELATED: Broncos tame Panthers, ride off with 24-10 Super Bowl 50 win]

Not that such a nuanced answer will suffice, of course. He was tabbed to be the centerpiece in the new debate menu, and he got Miller’d, and Ware’d, and Danny Trevathan’d, and Wade Phillips’d instead. He got the same rude and crude treatment Tom Brady did, and Ben Roethlisberger did before him. The Broncos defense was better than all the quarterbacks, and Newton could not transcend that particular law of gravity.

No, in the end, this Super Bowl provided nothing that met the pregame needs of the nation – save of course Beyonce, who was revealed later in the evening to be the act the 49ers booked for Levi’s Stadium that pushed the Girl Scouts out of the building for a week. It was a game that defied the logic that offense is the thing that makes football in the 21st century, and that quarterbacks fly the jet fighters that make it all pretty and sparkly.

It was a game for three decades ago, devoid of iconic moments but thick with one lesson. Football may be all about quarterbacks, but it isn’t always all about quarterbacks.

Raiders vs. Bengals live stream: How to watch NFL Week 15 game online


Raiders vs. Bengals live stream: How to watch NFL Week 15 game online

Coming off a thrilling home victory over the Steelers, the Raiders will look to make it two wins in a row when they travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in Week 15.

Oakland has been a .500 team over the last month, but has only one road win on the season to date. Sunday may present the Raiders' best chance at adding a second, as they'll face a Cincinnati team limping to the finish line.

The Bengals have lost five in a row and seven of their last eight, and are down to their backup quarterback after Andy Dalton was shut down for the season with a torn thumb ligament. The Raiders are dealing with injury troubles of their own, particularly on the offensive line.

Here's how you can stream Raiders-Bengals live online. 

Start time: Sunday, Dec. 16, at 10:00 a.m. PT
TV channel: CBS
Raiders live stream: fuboTV -- Get a free trial


Raiders must use 2019 NFL draft, free agency to overhaul wide receiver corps


Raiders must use 2019 NFL draft, free agency to overhaul wide receiver corps

CINCINNATI -- The Raiders started 2018 with an excellent receiver corps. On paper, anyway.

Amari Cooper was the No. 1 guy. Jordy Nelson added experience, leadership and just maybe more speed than people thought. Martavis Bryant was going to stretch the field. Ryan Switzer would be an ideal slot man. Seth Roberts was available in reserve.

Then the season began, and the whole thing fell apart.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden quickly grew tired of Switzer and shipped him to Pittsburgh. Bryant was cut before the regular season and then brought back, but he never got into the flow of Gruden’s offense.

Cooper controversially was traded to Dallas. Nelson’s knee got bruised.

The Raiders scrambled to fill spots, with weapons constantly rotating in and out around quarterback Derek Carr.

Gruden isn’t attached to any receiver still on the roster, meaning a complete reconstruction could be in store. They certainly need a new No. 1 receiver, and some help at most positions as the Raiders try to improve Carr’s supporting cast.

This offense can be dynamic with Gruden and Carr working well together, especially with weapons on the outside and in the slot.

Players likely to stay in 2019

Marcell Ateman: The seventh-round draft pick has had some big moments since being forced into action after the Amari Cooper trade. He hasn’t been great, and has a ton to learn about how to function in Gruden’s system, but there’s potential there. The Oklahoma State alum could be a productive red-zone target and someone who can make plays without blazing speed.

Dwayne Harris: He's an unrestricted free agent, but he could come back reasonably priced next year. He’s a solid return man. That’s valuable, even with so many kickoffs becoming touchbacks.

Keon Hatcher: He could stick around -- for training camp, at least -- and fight for a place on the 2019 53-man roster.

Players likely to go

Jordy Nelson: The veteran receiver is set to make $7.2 million in base salary and roster bonuses next season, though it isn’t guaranteed and there’s no dead money attached if he were to be cut.

Carr and Gruden have lauded Nelson’s locker-room presence, but they could get a younger, more dynamic receiver for that freight. They also have money to spare, so the Raiders could keep him around as a mentor and reliable presence in the clutch. It’s not a mortal lock, but it’s certainly possible Nelson will spend just one year in Silver and Black. Time will tell on this one.

Martavis Bryant: The talented receiver has ideal size and speed, but he never fit with Gruden or his offense. Gruden often criticized him in public and dubbed Bryant the “white tiger” for rarely being available on the practice field.

None of that matters more than Friday’s development, in which Bryant was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement from a one-year ban as a repeat offender of the league’s substance abuse policy.

Gruden gave up a third-round pick for Bryant, a high price for a failed experiment.

Seth Roberts: He might not be here now, if not for having a guaranteed salary in 2018. Roberts was down on the depth chart until attrition brought him back. He still isn’t a heavily targeted option despite all these injuries, which is something to note. Roberts is set to make $4.45 million next year, but he could be cut free and clear. That contract might be too pricey for him to stick around, though Carr could use some continuity in the receiver room.

Brandon LaFell: The Raiders loved having LaFell around. He’s a consummate pro, someone with reliable hands who does all the little things right. I believe they would’ve brought him back, if not for him suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in Week 11. It generally takes 11 calendar months to recover from such an injury, meaning he wouldn’t be ready until midseason 2019 at the earliest.

That puts him out of the running for an offseason deal.

Raiders potential offseason plan

Free agency: The Raiders have money to burn on this position, and should import at least one veteran presence to the group. A slot receiver couldn’t hurt, either.

One problem: The 2019 free agent receiver class stinks. There’s no truly dominant options available because teams don’t let dominant No. 1's walk. They don’t trade them either (cough, cough).

There should be some veteran options with high production potential, though. Golden Tate might be the biggest fish, even at age 30. He has several 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, is durable as heck and would step off the plane as the Raiders’ No. 1 receiver. His price will be high, but the contract length might not be that long.

Larry Fitzgerald seems like a player Gruden would simply love -- think of a post-49ers Jerry Rice in Silver and Black -- but Fitzgerald said this summer he’ll only play for the Cardinals.

The Raiders could use some funds on Donte Moncrief or Qunicy Enunwa, guys who could thrive with an accurate quarterback. Geronimo Allison is an intriguing young player, but he'll be a restricted free agent. It might not be worth overpaying to get him.

Draft: Unlike the free agent crop, the 2019 NFL draft class is loaded with quality receivers. There are so many good ones, value could be had outside the first round, where the Raiders could find a future No. 1 or a speed demon to stretch the field.

There’s some discrepancy among draft analysts about positional rankings, but Mississippi’s A.J. Brown often is considered the top talent.

The Raiders might be interested in N.C. State’s Kelvin Harmon, a tough receiver with quality hands and solid route running ability.

Stanford’s J.J. Arcega-Whiteside sounds like a Gruden-type receiver, a big-bodied player drawing Mike Evans comparisons.

Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown isn’t very big, but is a speed demon who can stretch the field and make dynamic plays. Opinions vary on N’Keal Harry, but he’s a big, reliable target who could be worth a high pick.

Bottom line: If the Raiders let most of their current receivers go as expected, they’ll need to retool the group with diverse skill sets to help Derek Carr move the chains and the ball downfield. They should sign a veteran, even if they keep Nelson, and draft one or two to improve a group that has fallen on hard times.