The Panthers have the No. 1 offense in the NFL and averaged 31.6 points per game in the regular season, when they went 15-1. In the playoffs, the Panthers are averaging 40 points per game. From the perspective of the Denver Broncos, who have the No. 1 defense in the NFL and are coming off of a stellar showing against reigning Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, the engine of the Carolina juggernaut is at quarterback.
"He's one of those pocket quarterbacks that can get the ball deep down the field. You have to be able to get pressure on him, but you have to be decisive on how you're rushing," Broncos pass rusher DeMarcus Ware said. "You can't be a wild rusher with big, wide B-gaps or let him run in the A-gap and do what he wants to do because he's actually a running back himself. He can get yards and make big plays so you have to make sure the pocket is tight when you're rushing against him, but you still have to be aggressive."
Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips went against his reputation for much of the game last week, distressing Brady with a blend of three-man rushes by changing the angle from which he brought the heat. His blitzed less in the AFC Championship game than any game he has called in 20 years, according to ESPN Stats and Research. Because the Panthers are so versatile, capable of chewing up the clock with a read-option running game but explosive in the passing game because of their speed threats such as Ted Ginn, what Phillips might come up with for Super Bowl Sunday is anyone's guess.
"We've got to come up with a great game plan against them like we did against New England. It's not my job to come up with the game plan," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "That's what coach Wade does. We're pretty sure he'll come up with a great game plan so we can be successful."
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak said he will go back to 2014 game tape from his time with the Ravens to see what parts of that game plan worked against Newton and what didn't. Denver had staff zero in on the two NFC finalists with film breakdown before the AFC title game to get a running start and Kubiak said no one was taking any type of break before starting Super Bowl preparation despite the two-week buildup to the game. The Broncos first practice in California will be Monday.
Until then, building a Cam-proof plan is the focus.
"I don't know that we've faced the dual-threat guy like him this year with our schedule. I saw him first-hand last year," Kubiak said. "It'll be different for us. Having to tackle him out in the open field, having to defend the quarterback runs and those types of things will be something different for us. It's nice to have a couple of weeks."
Talib said Newton is "super unique."
"I have never seen nobody who has that size who looks like a typical NFL quarterback who can sit in the pocket and then you can run," he said, adding that Newton could play any position in the NFL he wanted. "He's definitely a unique play. Like I said, he's probably the most dangerous quarterback in the NFL right now."