SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Peyton Manning was the obvious storyline. But it was an emotional night for Owen Daniels, too.
The Broncos tight end from Naperville Central became a Super Bowl champion after 10 years in the NFL when the Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium.
An hour after the game, the mild-mannered Daniels still was overcome by the moment.
“I’m trying to figure this whole thing out right now. I think I’m kind of a little bit in shock, actually,” Daniels said. “I’m just kind of giddy with happiness at this point. I was running around the field when the clock ran down to zero. I was letting it all out.
“I’ll be able to reflect on everything [later]. I’m just trying to enjoy everything. I’m enjoying talking to you guys [reporters]. I had an awesome moment wioth my family out there [on the field]. It’s going to continue to sink in more and more as the night goes on.”
It was a long time coming for Daniels, who has become almost the adopted son of coach Gary Kubiak. He played his first eight seasons in the NFL for Kubiak with the Houston Texans. He followed Kubiak to Baltimore after Kubiak was fired by the Texans and became the offensive coordinator for the Ravens. When Kubiak replaced John Fox as head coach of the Broncos, it was an easy decision to sign with Denver.
“Ten years,” Daniels said. “Followed Kub everywhere he’s been — and I followed him here for this reason. I know he knows what it takes to get it done. I respect him. I trust him. I looked at the team he had here [and thought] ‘Hey, this could be it.’ To be standing alone at the top means everything.”
2. Panthers coach Ron Rivera takes pride in letting his players be themselves, but he might have to draw the line when it comes to quarterback Cam Newton, who had an even worse week on the public stage as he did on the field in Super Bowl 50. Newton is a revolutionary player on the field, but he’s got a lot to learn about handling public scrutiny and attention, especially on the big stage.
Newton could take some lessons with his Carolina buddy Michael Jordan, who was the gold standard for handling the attention of the big stage. (Jordan would get two and three waves of the same question after first-round playoff games and handle it with ease. Newton was annoyed by repeat questions by Day 3 of Super Bowl week). Newton botched that part of the process so badly during Super Bowl week, it was more than just a bad moment or learning experience, but an issue Ron Rivera and the Panthers need to deal with.
It’ll be interesting to see if Rivera addresses the situation with his star quarterback after Newton botched that part of the process so clearly during Super Bowl week. Newton has the right to be himself — on and off the field — and deal with the media as he sees fit. But it’s funny how most of the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks in the NFL — Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger — seem to overcome whatever disdain they might have for the process and handle it in a professional, classy manner.
3. How close are the Bears to getting to the top? After Denver’s performance in the Super Bowl, it’s pretty clear they’ll have to upgrade their pass rush in the offseason. Von Miller will be a free agent and has a special appreciation for John Fox, who was his first NFL coach. But it’s more likely that the Broncos will use the franchise tag on Miller if they can’t sign him to a long-term deal. Somehow, the Bears are going to have to find a bookend for Pernell McPhee.
4. As difficult as their 6-10 season was, the Bears nearly beat the Broncos in the regular season, losing 17-15 when rookie Jeremy Langford was stopped in the backfield on a two-point conversion in the final minute. The Broncos were without Peyton Manning and Demarcus Ware in that game.
For what it’s worth, the last time the Bears beat the eventual Super Bowl champion was in 2010, when they beat the Packers 20-17 at Soldier Field. The Bears have faced the eventual Super Bowl winner in 23 seasons — nearly half of the 49 Super Bowls they did not win.
Overall, they are 3-24 vs. the eventual Super Bowl winners. They also beat the 1988 49ers 10-9 on Monday Night Football at Soldier Field; and the 1971 Cowboys, 23-19 at Soldier Field behind quarterback Bobby Douglass.
5. The Bears-Broncos game, which was Brock Osweiler’s first NFL start turned out to be critical for the Broncos, who finished 12-4 and beat out the Patriots for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. As dominant as the Broncos’ defense was in the Super Bowl, they were not likely to beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. They barely won at home in the AFC Championship Game.
“I think the biggest thing about the Chicago game,” Osweiler said, “is we proved we can go on the road in a hostile environment on a cold day and pull out a victory as a football team. That definitely meant a lot to us.”
6. Osweiler is one of many big believers in former Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase, now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins’. Did he see anything in Gase that indicated he will be a good head coach?
“Wow — there was not much that said he wasn’t going to be a great head coach,” Osweiler said. “I firmly believe that coach Gase is one of the most brilliant minds in the game of football, period. He is truly a special coach. He brings a ton of energy, a ton of excitement every day. There are no two days that are the same with him. And it’s something as a player you really love. It really draws you to him.”
7. The Bears will have trouble duplicating two elements of good fortune that fueled the Broncos and Panthers’ rise to the top: — a No. 1 (Cam Newton) or no. 2 (Von Miller) draft pick; and a soft division that gave them a cheap playoff berth and a chance for a postseason victory that played at least a small part in their success. In 2011, the Broncos won the AFC West at 8-8, then beat the Steelers in the playoffs before losing to the Patriots. In 2014, the Panthers won the NFC South at 7-8-1, then beat the Cardinals in the playoffs before losing to the Seahawks.
8. The Super Bowl championship was a crowning moment for veteran assistant coach Fred Pagac, the former Bears tight end who has the difficult job of coaching outside linebackers Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. Pagac, who played for Woody Hayes at Ohio State, was an undrafted free agent in 1974 who not only made the team but started.
“It was phenomenal,” said Pagac, yet another coal-miner’s son from western Pennsylvania, who grew up about 30 miles from Mike Ditka’s hometown of Aliquippa. “It was my rookie year. I won the [Brian] Piccolo Award that year. Had fun. Christ, when you come from an old coal-mining town like I did, I thought I was rich then. It was a great, great experience. Chicago’s a great town. I loved living there.”
9. Pagac played with quarterback Bobby Douglass, who had no touch on the ball but was one of the best running quarterbacks in NFL history — including 968 yards and eight touchdowns in 1972.
“Bobby was a linebacker playing quarterback in those days,” said Pagac, a blocking tight end who had six receptions for 79 yards for the Bears in 1974. “He ran pretty damn good and he was tough as nails. I know one thing — Bobby was a tough son of a gun. And a great person.”
10. Ex-Bears Player of the Week: Charles Tillman, who suffered a torn ACL in the Panthers’ regular-season finale was denied a Super Bowl ring when the Panthers lost to the Broncos. But despite his third major injury in three seasons, he hopes to play in the NFL in 2016. Tillman was typically to the point when asked about the Panthers’ loss.
“[The] hardest part is it just sucks,” Tillman said. “All of the hard work you did in the season, just trying to get one more win and you didn’t accomplish it. I don’t [know] what the biggest difference is or the hardest part is. It just sucks. There’s no substitution. I’m trying to come up with a word for it. It just sucks. It’s just a bad feeling.”