SANTA CLARA, United States: In the end there was to be no dancing and no “dabbing” — just dejection.
Cam Newton arrived in Sunday’s Super Bowl after a record-breaking season which left long-time observers of the National Football League declaring that he had redefined the role of quarterback.
But the biggest night of the Carolina Panthers superstar’s career ended in bitter disappointment after the Denver Broncos defense harried him into a string of mistakes to seal a dramatic 24-10 victory.
Newton ended up coming off second best in his duel with Broncos defensive star Von Miller, the man who had been chosen behind the Panthers quarterback as the second overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Twice Miller stripped Newton of the ball close to the Carolina goal line, and on both occasions it led to Denver touchdowns.
As Denver’s players celebrated a remarkable win at Levi’s Stadium, Newton collapsed to the turf distraught.
Later he appeared before reporters in the bowels of the stadium, hoodie drawn over his head, offering monosyllabic answers to journalists before leaving after little more than three minutes.
“They just played better than us. I don’t know what you want me to say. They made more plays than us, and that’s what it came down to,” Newton said.
“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.”
Asked if he had a message for Panthers fans, he replied: “We’ll be back.”
It was a sour ending to a remarkable season for Newton, who led the Panthers to a 17-1 record en route to Sunday’s Super Bowl while spearheading the highest-scoring offense in the NFL.
The 26-year-old has become a polarizing figure in his five seasons at Carolina, widely admired for his play but attracting sporadic criticism for his exuberant touchdown celebrations and his signature “dab” end zone routine.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera admitted he had made a point of speaking to Newton after the loss.
“I spoke with him a little bit, but again this is one of those things that’s going to hurt,” Rivera said.
“It’s going to hurt everybody for a while. Hopefully after a few days, or whatever it is, we’re going to get over it and we’ll move forward.”