There was no humiliation to be found in Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's performance on the field at the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos' defenders charged like banshees and werewolves, coming over and under and hurtling around the Panthers' blockers.
The young quarterback was sacked six times, and fumbled when the man-mountain known as Von Miller tossed him to the turf. He scrambled gamely and tossed some brilliant javelin throws. But if his was a less than stellar night, that can happen on the grandest of stages.
His humiliation came after the game, however, and it was self-imposed.
Newton, 26, an ebullient, intelligent, gifted quarterback, decided to act in his moment of truth like a 13-year-old. He slouched into the interview room late, well after many of his teammates — rookies and veterans alike — who gamely answered painful questions.
He took a seat, a blue sweatshirt hood pulled low over his face. He made eye contact with no one. What did he make of the game? Was he surprised? How could he explain?
The reporters' questions, not a surprise in the batch, were framed gently, as if put forward by dimwitted therapists. For more than a minute, Newton stared at the floor, scratched his chin and sulked.
Anything he would do differently? "No."
What did his coach tell the team? "He told us a lot of things."
Did the Denver defense take away Carolina's running lanes? "No."
He offered a few more monosyllables and walked away.
It was as if Newton was intent on taking his magical season, his jumping jacks and dabs and evident leadership, and poking a hole in its side. He let his charisma and leadership drain away, to be replaced by a soup of the sour and the petulant. And in doing so, he confirmed the judgment of more than a few Broncos defenders, who spoke afterward of trying to push him off his game psychologically.
And that on-the-field Cam was prologue to the postgame denouement.
This need not be Newton's epitaph.
Newton has fine mentors from whom he can learn grace, among them Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, who endured years of racially tinged self-imposed exile in Canada in the 1980s before an NFL team consented to allow him to take snaps and lead a team.
Newton's talents are many and varied. His challenge is to prove himself equal to leading his fine team to the Super Bowl.
— New York Times
Boring game or illusion?
Jeremy Stahl tackles why Sunday's Super Bowl 50 — a sloppy, error-prone defensive contest — "felt like a stinker" to so many. He writes:
"So why do most people hate these types of games so very, very much? It could be that when an offense plays well it looks like that team is doing what it's supposed to be doing, that it's succeeding.
"When a defense plays well, though, it often just looks like the other team is failing. So when (Von) Miller beats his man with a beautiful stutter move to sack-strip the best player in the league and help his team score a touchdown, that's the opposite of what is supposed to happen. And it looks like the Panthers offensive line and Cam Newton have just cost their team a touchdown, as much as it looks like the amazing Broncos defense has scored one.
"Because football is such a complicated sport with so many moving parts, it's very difficult to see who deservers credit and who should get blame on any given play when 11 different people on each side could be responsible for the play's results in a hundred different ways.
"But when the offenses sputter to such a drastic degree — whether or not such sputtering is caused by a pair of historically great defenses — everything in the game just looks like failure."