SANTA CLARA, California — Just like his boss, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway, Peyton Manning is in position to go out on top. And, just like Elway, his golden arm really didn’t have all that much to do with it.

Manning, 39, became the oldest quarterback to win the Super Bowl when his Broncos upset the Carolina Panthers 24-10 Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium. However, after a brilliant career that has him as the NFL’s all-time leading passer, he was little more than a bystander to a great defensive performance.

Denver sacked Carolina quarterback Cam Newton six times, 2 1/2 of them by linebacker Von Miller, chosen as the game’s Most Valuable Player, and two by linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Two of Miller’s sacks resulted in fumbles that gave the Broncos their first touchdown and led to the second.

The Broncos seven sacks overall tied the Super Bowl record.

The help Manning received from his defense was similar to how the running of Terrell Davis and a good defense helped Elway win two Super Bowls at the end of his career following the 1997 and 1998 seasons before he walked away.

“(Manning) didn’t have to go out there and do it all on his own, and he knew that,” said Gary Kubiak, the first NFL coach to win the Super Bowl with a team for which he played. “I told him that I watched John Elway win a championship with 120-something yards passing, and he got one today with about 100 and something yards, too.”

Actually, Elway won the Super Bowl following the 1997 season with 123 yards passing. Manning had 141 against Carolina, completing 13 of 23 passes and throwing one touchdown.

Manning didn’t say he was ready to walk away, saying only he wanted to take some time to think about it and that his former coach with the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy, cautioned him, “Don’t make an emotional decision.”

The 2015 season was hardly an artistic success for Manning, according to the numbers, as he ranked 35th in passing in a 32-team league. Yet, while leaning on the defense, he still managed the Broncos offense well enough Sunday to become the first starting quarterback to win Super Bowls with two different teams.

“I don’t know if it was your last rodeo, but it was one heck of a ride,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told Manning as he handed over the Lombardi Trophy to the Broncos.

“This game was like this season has been. It tested our toughness, our resilience and our unselfishness,” said Manning, who missed several late-season games with an injury that for a time left it uncertain he would be able to return for the playoffs.

The Broncos never trailed in the game. They built a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter on the first of three Brandon McManus field goals and a touchdown scored by defensive end Malik Jackson, who recovered a Newton fumble in the end zone after a sack by Miller.

Denver managed to win the game with only 11 first downs and 194 yards total offense. The Broncos converted only one of 14 third-down plays into first downs, and until the game-clinching touchdown, they failed to score a touchdown on four possessions to at least the Carolina 25-yard line.

The demise of the Panthers, who led the league in scoring during the regular season, underscores how a great regular-season record is not necessarily a barometer of postseason success. Carolina was the eighth team in NFL history to post a record of at least 15-1 — and the fifth among those eight to fail to win the Super Bowl.

Carolina, which lost only 19 turnovers during the season, lost four Sunday — three fumbles and an interception. On 16 possessions, the Panthers got inside Denver’s 20-yard line just once, on a second-quarter drive that resulted in running back Jonathan Stewart’s 1-yard leap for the only Carolina touchdown.

Newton, the league’s MVP this season, completed only 18 of 41 passes for 265 yards and wound up with a 55.4 passer rating. His rating was 99.4 during the regular season and 113.4 in the two previous playoff games.

“This is the ‘rawest’ defense ever,” Broncos tight end Owen Daniels said of his teammates. “Ever. To do that to the guy that’s changing the game, unbelievable. Our defense, you have to put them up there with the best ever.”

The Broncos led 16-10 for most of the fourth quarter, the Panthers in position to take command with a touchdown. However, Denver stopped Carolina on three consecutive possessions without allowing a first down, limiting the Panthers to minus-13 net yards before producing the clinching touchdown.

That came with 3:08 remaining on a 2-yard carry by running back C.J. Anderson. It was made possible when, with 4:04 left, Miller sacked Newton, who fumbled, and safety T.J. Ward recovered at the Panthers 4-yard line.

In short order, the celebrations started, and Manning had to face the questions regarding his future. But he had his priorities.

“I want to go kiss my wife and my kids,” he said. “I want to go hug my family. I’m going to drink a lot of (beer) tonight.”

NOTES: Manning became the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl at 39 years, 220 days. He did not join the living Super Bowl MVPs recognized in a pregame ceremony, where three-time winner Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers received the loudest cheers. … The Broncos also won the previous two Super Bowls in which they led at halftime. … Broncos DE Malik Jackson’s fumble recovery for a touchdown in the first quarter was the first in a Super Bowl in 21 years. Dallas Cowboys DB James Washington was the last to turn a fumble into a defensive score in 1994 against the Buffalo Bills. … The Panthers gave the ball away just once in their first two playoff games this postseason.