SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The team that dabbed flubbed.
The team that scored more points than any during the regular season and postseason imploded with turnovers, penalties, sacks and mistakes.
They didn't get to dance.
That the last-gasp attempt to pull out the victory ended with Denver's Von Miller stripping the ball from quarterback Cam Newton for the second time was a microcosm of the night. The Broncos turned that into a second touchdown against a defense that gave up a league-low 32 points off turnovers all year.
But this wasn't all Newton's fault.
Fullback Mike Tolbert, who hadn't fumbled all season, did so twice, turning the ball over once. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who hadn't dropped a pass all year, dropped two, including one inside the Denver 10-yard line.
The Panthers had 12 penalties, four turnovers and a missed field goal attempt.
Newton, the league MVP who came out for warm-ups in gold cleats, was far from golden against the league's top-ranked defense. It began on his first pass, which was was high, an issue throughout the first four years of his career that hadn't really surfaced this season. It continued as Newton had the ball stripped from him by Miller and recovered for a touchdown.
His lethal legs couldn't save him.
The result? Ten points for a team that averaged 31.3 during the regular season and 40 during the playoffs.
There were a few bright spots. Defensive end Kony Ealy became the first player in Super Bowl history to have three sacks and an interception. He also recovered a fumble. Philly Brown had four catches for 80 yards, including a spectacular deep catch over the middle in the second half, before going to the locker to be tested for a concussion.
But in the end there was no posing for pictures on the sideline. There were no "Superman" moves or dancing celebrations, no giving multiple kids footballs after touchdowns.
The team that played better than any other in the NFL all season couldn't get on track on the biggest stage.
This wasn't something you could see coming. The Panthers appeared as loose during the week of hype, as they had all season. They finished their team picture at the stadium on Saturday with a team dab.
But on this night they looked tight.
Why? Only they know for sure.
They looked like the team that began last season 3-8-1 instead of the one that started this season 14-0.
It shouldn't spoil what the Panthers accomplished. They have the nucleus for long-term success, with a franchise quarterback in Newton and franchise quarterback on defense in middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.
They're no longer in salary cap hell, like they were two years ago.
But when the Panthers had the chance to dab and show the world just how good they were, they flubbed.