Even against the Carolina Panthers, the Denver Broncos faced a daunting task of going to the east coast on back-to-back weeks. This time, Denver head coach John Fox heads back the place where he began his head coaching career. He heads back to the place where he built a 73-71 record, three trips to the playoffs, two NFC Championships and a trip to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Both teams went three and out to begin the game. On Carolinas second drive of the game, QB Cam Newton had moved the offense down the field at will, including 26 yard pass completed to RB Mike Tolbert and two consecutive passes that lead to a touchdown grab by TE Greg Olsen.
The Panthers were able to move the ball down the field with ease, but that would be the last time Carolina would see a lead in this game.
The Broncos shook off the jet lag and went to work on the Carolina Panthers. On all phases of the game as well. Starting their third drive of the game, Peyton Manning (27 of 38, 301 yards, 1 TD) went to work on the Panthers. Connecting with WR Demaryius Thomas for a 32 yard pass (9 catches, 153 yards) to help set up a 10 yard touchdown reception by Brandon Stokley. The rout was on.
The Broncos put together a complete game on this afternoon, following the touchdown, the defesne went to work on QB Cam Newton. On third down, DE Elvis Dumervil was able to get around the line and work his way to Newton, forcing a sack-fumble. The Panthers were forced to punt the ball, and into the hands WR/KR Trindon Holliday. 75 yards later, Holliday was in for a score, presumably in for a score. Following the game, footage came up showing that Holliday may have celebrated prematurely on the punt return.
Whether he was in or not, the ruling on the field was a touchdown, and no review necessary as the Broncos go up 14-7. Manning told the Denver Post he was pleased to see other parts of the team putting points up on the board other than the offense.
“It’s the Broncos who scored those touchdowns,” Manning said. “And anybody on the team that wants to score a touchdown I’m for it.”
That wasn’t the end of it for the Broncos on this day. The defensive efforts continued to get to Newton. LB Von Miller and the Broncos were camped in the backfield with Newton. On 45 of his dropbacks, Newton was hit on 19 of them. The defense held the Panther offense to 250 total yards, no third down conversions, 52 yards on the ground and holding Newton to 21 of 36 for 241 yards with two touchdown passes to tight end Greg Olsen along with two interceptions.
The Panthers and Broncos were the two teams that picked one and two in the 2011 NFL Draft with Newton going to Carolina and Miller going to Denver. Denver did look at Newton prior to the draft as any team would, sitting at two, you evaluate all talent at every position. Denver chose Miller, and he has paid off for Denver thus far with 105 tackles, 21.5 sacks thus far early in his career. Head Coach John Fox had this to say about Miller.
“Well, he’s a dynamic guy. I think this kind of meant something to him. Sometimes where you are in the draft and that kind of stuff kind of motivates guys. You’ll have to ask Von, but he definitely came to play today, that’s for sure.”
The Broncos got solid efforts out of multiple players, Miller chipping in a sack, six tackles including four for a loss. Seven total sacks for the day, seven QB hits as they rattled Newton to throw one of his INT’s to CB Tony Carter for a pick six. For icing on the cake, DB Mike Adams sacked Newton in Carolinas endzone for a safety.
The Broncos dominance on offense, defense and special teams was on full display this past week, and in the process, a couple of milestones were reached. QB Peyton Manning passed for his 420th touchdown of his career, tying him with Dan Marino for the second most in NFL history, and RB Willis McGahee was the 44th player to surpass the 8,000 yard rushing mark of his career with 14 carries for 56 yards on the afternoon.