It was a sloppy Super Bowl, sure, but it wasn’t a dirty one save for one play early in the second quarter, when Denver CB Aqib Talib grabbed hold of Carolina WR Corey Brown’s facemask and wrenched it as he rode Brown out of bounds, twisting like there was candy inside that could only be freed by popping Brown’s head off his neck. It was as vicious a facemask as you’ll see, and it only cost the Broncos one yard. That was no accident.
Talib racked up two personal fouls in the first 20 minutes of the game. If Roger Goodell gets his way, that’ll soon mean an automatic ejection. But it doesn’t yet, so Talib was safe in not only committing the penalties, but in admitting that the second one was intentional.
“[The facemask] I just did on purpose, and I just had to show him. It’s probably going to be a fine, but, hey, we’re world champs.”
In Talib’s mind, it was...revenge? I guess? Midway through the first quarter, Talib and Brown had jawed at each other on the Broncos sideline. Talib took his helmet off, which was probably what sealed the deal: he earned a 15-yard penalty for taunting. It was a big play at the time, as it gave Carolina a new set of downs on what would have been fourth-and-16.
On the next drive, as Brown hauled in a pass to put the Panthers on the 2-yard-line, Talib tackled him thus:
You can’t do that! Only, given that the punishment was just half the distance to the goal line, there was really no reason (other than human decency) not to. And Talib knew exactly where he was.
“He was on the 3-yard line. A personal foul, he was on the 1 1/2-yard line, so it is what it is.”
Good field awareness, I guess. Talib, a legendarily dirty player, called this “the funnest game I’ve played by far.”