SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Von Miller and the rest of the Broncos' dominant defense realized the only way to ditch their doubters was to bring home the silver ball from the Golden Gate City.
There's no denying Denver now.
The Lombardi Trophy is headed back to Denver, thanks to a defense that hammered Panthers quarterback Cam Newton like he'd never been hit and hounded the rest of the Panthers into bobbles, bumbles and fumbles in a 24-10 beatdown that was epic and classic.
Any more questions?
The Broncos finished first in the NFL in sacks, yards per play, pass defense and total defense this season. But all anyone seemed to be talking about in the leadup to Super Bowl 50 was Newton's dances and dabs and the Panthers' "Thieves Ave." secondary after it piled up 48 takeaways, including nine in the playoffs.
"I'm telling you, we don't get no respect," Denver cornerback Chris Harris said 72 hours before the Broncos got the chance to change all that.
Former Bucs and current Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib said: "We got goal boards in our locker room, and we see everything that we've done this year. But everything will be forgotten by next season if we don't come home with that trophy."
Five years after being drafted No. 2 behind Newton, Denver linebacker Von Miller harassed Carolina's quarterback from start to finish, forcing two fumbles, compiling 21/2 sacks and earning MVP honors.
"I'm so proud of my guys," Miller said, clutching the silver Lombardi Trophy. "It's been every last one of you guys in the locker room that's gotten us to this moment right here."
Miller created Denver's first touchdown by zooming past right tackle Mike Remmers and breaking in on Newton to rip the ball away from the QB, who was honored as the regular-season MVP on Saturday night.
The fumble bounced into the end zone, where defensive end Malik Jackson landed on it to put the Broncos ahead 10-0 about 81/2 minutes into the game.
With the Panthers trailing 16-10 late in the fourth quarter, Newton was strip-sacked by Miller. With the ball bouncing on the field, Newton had a chance to jump into the fray to recover it but instead pulled up and didn't dive for the ball. It squirted away and was recovered by Broncos safety T.J. Ward. Four plays, C.J. Anderson scored the clinching touchdown.
At his postgame news conference, Newton sat at the podium for 3:15 and gave short answers to questions.
"We dropped balls, we turned the ball over, gave up sacks, threw errant passes," Newton said.
At one point, he said, "I don't know what you want me to say. I'm sorry."
As a reporter asked if Newton was disappointed for his teammates considering how close they'd become this year, Newton shook his head, said "I'm out of here," and walked off the stage.
Miller, showing his versatility, even made plays in pass coverage, dropping back to force an incompletion from Newton to Jerricho Cotchery at one point.
It was all part of quite a display by Miller and the rest of Denver's defense, making the NFC champion Panthers and their No. 1-ranked offense look mediocre at best. DeMarcus Ware added two sacks and two tackles for loss.