This Panthers-Broncos game was not expected to be an exciting match up and the teams did no initially disappoint. They opened by trading four straight punts. The Panthers, facing their third fourth down, faked a punt to earn the first down. A deep strike to DJ Moore and a 15-yard run by D'Onta Foreman saw Carolina in the red zone in the final minutes of the first quarter. It was the start of an ultimately satisfying offensive performance.
That drive resulted in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Sam Darnold to Moore to close out the quarter.
Brian Burns sacked Russell Wilson to all but kill their opening possession of the second quarter. However, Raheem Blackshear muffed the punt and Denver recovered deep in Carolina territory.
Relying on receivers in the running game got the Broncos to a 3rd & 1 from the seven. Burns and Frankie Luvu combined on a tackle for a three yard loss. Denver was held to only field goal on their turnover, trailing the Panthers 7-3.
The following drive was produced almost entirely on the back of Chuba Hubbard after Foreman was pulled off the field to be assessed for an injury. Foreman ultimately returned to the field, but the drive stalled and ended with a 42-yard Eddy Piñeiro field goal that put the Panthers up 10-3. It was a 10-play, 51-yard drive that took 5:29 off the clock.
The Broncos were left with just 4:42 left in the first half to try to catch up. They opened the drive with a 53-yard run by Latavius Murray down to the 23 yard line.
Burns forced a fumble on 2nd & 10, one that looked an awful lot like a batted pass. The Panthers had 1st & 10 at the Carolina 19 after the refs confirmed the call and that Yetur Gross-Matos recovered.
The Burns sack/fumble brought the young edge player to double digit sacks in a season for the first time in his career.
A holding penalty derailed the next drive and led to a Panthers punt inside the two minute warning. The ensuing Broncos possession amounted to nothing. Shi Smith fair caught the ball and didn't fumble it. The Panthers tried to work down the field with the remaining minute on the clock, but ended up going three and out and punting back to the Broncos with 00:37 left on the clock and three time outs.
They managed to put together more offense than on any other possession to attempt a 56-yard field as time expired. It was no good and the Panthers entered the second half up 10-3.
A quick Broncos punt opened the second half and gave the Panthers the opportunity to drive methodically down the field for a score. Sam Darnold recovered a Sam Darnold fumble in the end zone for his second touchdown of the day. That put the Panthers up 17-3.
The next noteworthy play resulted in a likely head injury for Foreman on an otherwise unremarkable play. Another couple of traded punts followed. The monotony was broken by another flash of competence from Darnold as he connected with Moore on a 52-yard pass.
For all that Darnold ain't it, he's been closer to it than any other Panthers quarterback this season, showing more touch and better placement on his balls than even PJ Walker has to date.
That deep connection with Moore led to a 26-yard field goal from Piñeiro that put the Panthers up 20-3 with 13:33 left in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos then returned an earlier favor from the Panthers by fumbling the following kickoff and graciously allowing the Panthers to recover at the Denver 35. They converted that into another field goal to lead 23-3 and stay on pace to score more points than passes attempted today.
The Broncos managed to work their way to a first and goal late in the fourth quarter. The drive featured injuries to Xavier Woods and Burns, though Burns later returned to the field.
Three incompletions later and the Broncos tried a desperation fourth and goal play. They didn't score a touchdown, but did pick up a roughing the passer penalty and a new set of downs on first and goal.
The scored on third and goal from the one when Brandon Johnson caught an awkward Russell Wilson pass to cut the Panthers lead to 23-10. It took them seven goal-to-go plays to score.
The Broncos then executed a successful onside kick to retain possession of the ball. Their drive fizzled out when the Panthers forced an incompletion on 4th & 10. That was the ball game as a Panthers first down on the next drive was enough to kill the remaining clock. Steve Wilk’s Carolina Panthers are now 3-4 through seven games.