The Denver Broncos are one of the hottest teams going in the NFL. They won their fourth game in a row and second consecutive game on the road with a 36-14 pounding of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Denver is learning how to impose their will on their opponents and take care of business week in and week out. That’s what good football teams do. The Broncos have proven that they will be serious contenders in the AFC down the stretch.
Typically a double digit road win wouldn’t leave much room for criticism, but the Denver offense played a sloppy game and missed several opportunities to put the game away early. It was the Denver defense that carried the day and dominated the Panthers with an interception return for a touchdown, 7 sacks and 2 total turnovers. Despite the final score, the Broncos have room for improvement, and that is a scary proposition for Denver’s future opponents.
Here are some thoughts on the Denver Broncos victory over the Carolina Panthers:
- You have to be impressed with what the Broncos defense accomplished. They held Carolina to 250 total yards, a 0-for-12 conversion rate on third downs, and Cam Newton finished with a measly 74.0 quarterback rating. Kevin Vickerson had a monster game with 2 sacks and 2 quarterback hits. Chris Harris led the team with 7 tackles and Tony Carter had a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown that ended the competitive phase of the game. Last but not least, Von Miller was a one man wrecking crew. He had 6 tackles, 1 sack, 4 tackles for loss and 1 quarterback hit. These players produced the big numbers, but every single guy on the defense deserves credit for a job well done. Without their effort the Broncos would have been in a dog fight yesterday.
- The conservative nature of John Fox hasn’t really cost the Broncos this season, but it nearly created a big swing against Carolina right before halftime. Denver faced a 4th-and-1 on the Panthers 25-yard line after a horrible spot by the referee. The offense lined up to go for it after Fox decided not to challenge the spot. He would have won the challenge because the spot was clearly off by a yard, but it’s hard to say if the new spot would have been enough for a first down. After a stoppage of play the Broncos had their field goal unit on the field. You could feel the impending miss coming through the television. After Prater pushed the kick to the right Carolina had a bunch of momentum and naturally started driving the field with ease. Luckily, Denver was bailed out when the Panthers missed their field goal try with 40 seconds to go before the break. John Fox: you have Peyton Manning! Your defense had been playing great! If you keep Manning on the field and score a touchdown before halftime the game would have been over early. Fox needs to be more aggressive and play to win in that situation.
- It’s long overdue but the offensive line needs recognition for how well they’ve protected the quarterback this year. They gave up a sack yesterday for the first time since the New England game and have played a big part of the 4-game winning streak.
- For whatever reason, the Broncos cannot go a game without fumbling the ball. Willis McGahee is a key component of the offense but his fumble problem is killing the team. He fumbled twice yesterday and it seems like it is becoming a regular occurrence with him. The Broncos also never seem to fall on a fumble once it’s on the ground. It is uncanny how the football finds a way to evade the Denver players when there’s a scramble on the field. I have hammered this topic repeatedly, but the fumbling issue is this team’s Achilles heel. If they don’t find a way to reverse the trend it’s going to cost them when they play good teams.
- Peyton Manning once again went over the 300 yard mark passing. Even on a day when he wasn’t dominant his quarterback rating was 103.1 and he didn’t throw an interception. It’s amazing how Manning has changed the culture in Denver and he has everyone on the team playing better. They didn’t have their best day, but Manning and the offense will be just fine.
- For the second week in a row Trindon Holliday made the special teams play of the day. This time he took a punt 76 yards to the house. However, he needs to make sure he carries the ball all the way across the goal line! It looked like he might have flipped the ball up in celebration before he got into the end zone. He has done that on both of his kick return touchdowns this season and he needs to quit messing with fire. Hopefully the coaches get in his ear this week and he simply hands the ball to the ref next time he scores.
- Next up is a massive home game against the San Diego Chargers. A Denver victory will complete a sweep of San Diego for the first time since 2005 and essentially wrap up the division title. Go Broncos!