John Fox’s return to Carolina reunited the past with the present. It wasn’t so much about the former Carolina Panthers’ head coach returning to the city where he coached for nine years. It was more about the Denver Broncos’ defense returning to ‘Orange Crush’ form in the team’s 36-14 win over the Panthers.
The Broncos’ defense took the North Carolina state nickname to heart, and made 2011 No. 1 overall draft pick Cam Newton look like his heels were actually stuck in tar. The No. 2 overall pick that same year, Von Miller, led the charge. Four of Miller’s six tackles went for a loss, he had one sack, and one quarterback hit. Less than three minutes into the game, Miller got his first sack and pulled out Newton’s Superman dance. With that sack, Miller became just the 13th player in NFL history to have 10 or more sacks in this first two seasons in the league.
Miller was also the one that hit Newton’s arm, resulting in a Tony Carter pick-6 with 9:59 to go in the second quarter. Carter sprinted 40 yards for the score, and became the fifth player in team history to have an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble return for the touchdown in the same season.
The Broncos’ offense put up just 14 points. Special teams and the defense backed up the stalled passing game, and the fumble-proned running game.
It was Trindon Holliday who had his second touchdown return in two weeks when he took a punt up the right side of the field for 76 yards to begin the second quarter, and put the Broncos up for the first time in the game. Holliday became just the third Bronco to have a punt return and kickoff return touchdown in the same season. How the Houston Texans let him go will be one of this season’s great mysteries.
Matt Prater belted a 53-yard field goal and a 27-yard field goal to contribute six points.
Safety Mike Adams sacked Newton for a safety at the beginning of the fourth quarter to put a couple more non-offensive points up on the board.
Rookie running back Ronnie Hillman had the first touchdown of his career, and second-year safety Rahim Moore had the first interception of his career.
Peyton Manning went 27-for-38 for 301 yards and one touchdown. His go-to guy once again was Demaryius Thomas who had 9 catches for 135 yards.
It wasn’t so much the passing game that kept points off the board. Willis McGahee fumbled the ball twice, losing it once, and had just 56 yards on 14 carries. He will surely be walking around Dove Valley with a football in his arms throughout the week. The Broncos only got two first downs from rushing the ball.
Turnovers and rushing woes aside, the Broncos have won four straight, and they have arguably one of the best defenses in the league. The team sacked Newton seven times which is the most sacks the Broncos have had in one game since 2003. They also forced the Panthers to go 0-for-12 on third down.
Not only have the Broncos won four consecutive games, but they’ve won two straight on the road.
This win was sweeter than any Carolina BBQ sauce. John Fox can attest to that.