SANTA CLARA, Calif. — His magnetic smile never materialized. It was replaced by a post game scowl and clipped sound bites delivered to the media.
On the biggest stage of his young NFL career, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton never seemed like himself Sunday night. And in the aftermath of a 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, a visibly upset Newton wasn’t in the mood to rehash what had transpired.
“They just played better than us,” he said in a barely audible voice. “I don’t know what you want me to say. They made more plays than us and that’s what it came down to. We had our opportunities. There wasn’t nothing special that they did. We dropped balls. We turned the ball over, gave up sacks, threw errant passes. That’s it. They scored more points than we did.”
The typically easygoing, fun-loving Newton appeared rattled by Denver’s relentless pressure. On this night, dancing was an afterthought. The “Dab” was put to rest. So were his hopes of winning the Lombardi Trophy.
Known best for mimicking “Superman” on the field, Newton looked nothing like his 2015 MVP self. He was sacked six times, completed only 18 of 41 passes and finished without a touchdown pass or run.
The Panthers arrived at Levi’s Stadium eager to become the first Super Bowl champion in franchise history. Instead, they lamented the missed opportunities and mistakes that thwarted their efforts from the opening kick. “They outplayed us,” said Newton, who also delivered the following message to Panthers fans: “We’ll be back.”
While both he and Peyton Manning struggled, Newton’s errors proved to be far more costly. He launched wildly high and errant throws and took two first-quarter sacks. Worse, one of those quarterback hits came on a blind-side blow by outside linebacker Von Miller and resulted in a fumble-recovery touchdown by defensive end Malik Jackson for a 10-0 Denver lead.
The more reporters tried to tap into Newton’s postgame emotions, the more clipped his responses became.
What was Ron Rivera’s post game message to the team? “He told us a lot of things,” he said.
Asked if he could put his disappointment into words, he all but declined. “We lost,” he said.
After Newton answered “no” to the question of whether Denver did something specific to take away the Panthers’ running lanes, a reporter again tried to question him about his level of disappointment. He shook his head, said ‘I’m done, man,” and was gone.