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Jay Skurski’s three up/three down: Phillips’ game plan was a masterpiece

The Denver Broncos’ victory in Super Bowl 50 gave Peyton Manning his second championship in what is surely a Hall of Fame career.

But this game was not about Manning. He was simply along for the ride.

This was about the other side of the ball for the Broncos, which is reflected in the Super Bowl edition of “Three Up/Three Down:”

Three up

1. Wade Phillips. The Pro Football Hall of Fame should be on the phone with the Broncos on Monday morning, asking for Phillips’ game plan. The former Buffalo Bills coach authored a masterpiece against the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL. It’s amazing to think that Phillips spent 2014 out of football. A total of 21 defensive coordinator jobs were filled from the time he left his job as defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans after the 2013 season until he was hired by the Broncos. It’s impossible not to think Phillips’ age (68) was held against him as that was happening. After watching his defense perform Sunday, it’s clear the league hasn’t passed Phillips by. He very richly deserves the last laugh.

2. Von Miller. Of course, Phillips’ game plan needed to be executed, and nobody did that better than Miller, the game’s MVP. He was simply a terror off the edge all night, finishing with 2.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles that directly led to 14 points for Denver. Miller had a combined five sacks of Tom Brady and Cam Newton in Denver’s final two games. The pending unrestricted free agent picked a profitable time to have what are likely the best two games of his career. Miller became just the fourth linebacker to win Super Bowl MVP.

3. C.J. Anderson. Let’s face it: This game was all about the Denver defense. But Anderson did just enough offensively to keep Carolina honest. He gained 90 yards on 23 carries, and his touchdown in the fourth quarter basically sealed the win. It was clear in the second half that the Panthers were not worried about Manning beating them. Anderson added another 10 yards as a receiver. Denver gained 194 yards as a team, with Anderson accounting for more than half of them. That’s the fewest yards ever for a Super Bowl-winning team.

Three down

1. Cam Newton. He had a season to remember, but a Super Bowl to forget. Newton simply could not get into a rhythm against the Broncos’ relentless pass rush. He finished 18 of 41 for 265 yards, rushed six times for 45 yards and lost three turnovers. One play in particular that got quite a bit of attention on social media was Newton’s last fumble. After Miller knocked the ball away, Newton appeared to avoid jumping in the pile to attempt a recovery. Maybe he thought it was an incomplete pass and the play would have been blown dead, but either way, it wasn’t a good look. Newton was hurt by some drops, and Denver’s rush deserves most of the credit, but the NFL most valubalbe player will always be the most closely scrutinized player in any game.

2. Ron Rivera. The Panthers’ coach punted with his team trailing by two touchdowns with two minutes to play. That’s the equivalent of waving a white flag in the Super Bowl. For that reason alone, Rivera earns a huge thumbs down.

3. Jonathan Stewart/Mike Tolbert. The Carolina running backs combined for just 47 yards on 17 carries. Stewart suffered a foot injury early in the game, but was able to return. Just how much that factored into his performance is debatable. Tolbert lost a fumble inside Denver territory.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com

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