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BSN Breakdown: Turnovers a sure-fire recipe for a Broncos' Super Bowl 50 disaster

Ken Pomponio Avatar
February 3, 2016


Containing Cam Newton?

That’s definitely up there.

Scoring touchdowns in the red zone?

Sure, always important.

But the No. 1 Super Sunday priority for the Denver Broncos is avoiding turnovers and setting the table for a ravenous Carolina Panthers’ defense that’s simply feasted off opponents’ fumbles and foibles all season.

You’ve no doubt come across some of the following figures here in the seemingly endless two-week buildup to Super Bowl 50, but they’re too remarkable and crucial not to review:

  • The Panthers easily led the league with 39 takeaways and a plus-20 turnover differential during the regular season. Their 24 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries also were – or tied for – the most in the NFL.
  • Not surprisingly, given the above numbers, Carolina also was tops in the league with 148 points off turnovers and plus-116 net turnover points – which includes four pick-sixes – as part of their NFL-most 500 overall points during the regular season.
  • And factoring into the above, the Panthers had the league’s second-best average starting field position (own 30.7-yard line) during the regular season, trailing only the Chiefs (own 31.3)
  • During the playoffs, the Panthers have picked right up where they left off in the regular season, notching nine takeaways in their two playoff wins and converting those into 32 points – including a pair of Luke Kuechly pick-sixes – which has contributed generously to their 80-39 post-season scoring differential.
  • Individually, Kuechly (six picks, two forced fumbles), safety Kurt Coleman (nine interceptions, three forced fumbles) and cornerback John Norman (four picks, three forced fumbles) are the ringleaders for this band of thieves, with Kuechly and Norman topping things off with a combined five pick-sixes in 18 games.

Simply put, the Broncos can’t afford to feed this beast.

The Orange and Blue wound up the regular season with 31 turnovers – only the 3-13 Titans and 4-12 Cowboys, with 33 apiece, had more – and a minus-4 turnover differential, which was the only negative number among the 12 playoff teams.

Asa result, the opposition’s average starting field position was at its own 29.5-yard line – third-worst in the league – and foes turned those Denver giveaways into 100 points, including a trio of pick-sixes, which ranked as the sixth-highest total in the league.

(By the way, all this makes the Denver defense even more impressive given the bad spots the offense placed them in for much of the season.)

In the playoffs, though, the Broncos have had a turnover turnabout with only one giveaway – the first-quarter swing pass in the AFC Championship Game that was reviewed and ruled to be a lateral. That was quickly converted into a Patriots TD, but that’s been it — no Peyton Manning picks or other untimely fumbles by the backs — for the Orange & Blue, whose plus-2 turnover differential has helped pave the way to Santa Clara.

In the previous 49 Super Bowls, the team winning the turnover battle – even at a basic plus-one – has won 36 of 41 games. Make that at least a plus-two, and it’s 28-2 for those on the positive side of the turnover ledger.

The Broncos certainly can attest to that.

In their two Big Game wins, the Orange & Blue were a plus-1 and plus-3 in turnovers. In their five losses, they were – in chronological order – a minus-6, minus-1, minus-2, minus-4 and minus-4, respectively.

No scores needed as that’s a collective plus-4 in two wins and an aggregate negative-17 in five losses.

Say no more.

So Cam will get his share of big plays Sunday, and we might see Brandon McManus called upon to boot a short field goal or two.

But in order for the Broncos to have a puncher’s chance at landing the franchise’s third Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, they must avoid at all costs the knockout turnover blows that the opportunistic Panthers are so eager to deliver.

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