The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers found themselves in a rematch of Super Bowl 50 on Sunday afternoon. Both teams came into Week 14 with a 4-8 record, desperate to add another game to the win column. The Panthers had a bye last week but were without Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, so it was up to Robby Anderson and Mike Davis to step it up in this game.
The Broncos had the first possession of the ball but didn’t put points up in their opening drive, however, they did put the first points up in the next drive when Diontae Spencer took the punt 83 yards for a touchdown. Spencer’s first career touchdown. Brandon McManus‘ field goal kick hit the left upright post and he missed the extra point, so Denver took the early lead 6-0.
Neither team was able to put up any more points in the remaining ten minutes and the score remained true heading into quarter two.
Carolina had the opportunity to score first in the second quarter, but they were unable to put any points up in their opening drive. However, in the Broncos’ opening drive, the Panthers forced a turnover when Jeremy Chinn sacked Drew Lock, forcing a fumble, and Efe Obada recovered who took it 54 yards to Denver’s three-yard line.
Davis rushed the ball into the endzone on the second play of the next drive and Joey Slye put it through the points for the extra point. Carolina took the one-point lead, 7-6 with 6:15 left in the first half.
Denver nearly kept possession of the ball for the rest of the quarter and a defensive unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Panthers on a fourth-down automatically gave the Broncos a first down and almost certainly guaranteed they would get into the endzone.
The Broncos did just that when Nick Vannett caught his first touchdown pass in two years, giving the lead back to Denver, 13-7, with a minute and a half to play.
Penalties cost the Panthers the opportunity to put any more points up before the half ended and Denver kept the lead going into halftime. Carolina was hit with three penalties totaling 22 yards in the first half, compared to one penalty for five yards for Denver. The Broncos held on to the ball for exactly four minutes longer than the Panthers and outplayed them in total yardage, both passing and rushing.
The Panthers opened the second half with possession of the ball, but didn’t put any points up and ended up punting the ball after a loss of five yards on the drive.
The Broncos on the other hand were able to convert their opening drive into points on the board when KJ Hamler caught a career-high 37-yard pass from Lock and scored his second-career touchdown. McManus missed his second kick for the extra point and Denver extended their lead, 19-7.
In the next possession, Carolina finished out a four-minute, 11-play drive with a 35-yard field goal by Slye. The score was 19-10 with just under seven minutes to play.
Carolina’s defense fell apart in the next drive and they allowed several long runs that ultimately ended up with Denver scoring. The score came from a connection between Lock and Tim Patrick for a two-yard touchdown pass and this time McManus kicked the extra point, but Carolina was hit with yet another penalty and Luck attempted the two-point conversion, which was a failed attempt. This gave Denver a 15 point lead, 25-10 with just over three minutes left in the third quarter.
Carolina finished out the third quarter with possession of the ball, and even though they were unable to put any points up in the final few weeks, they did retain possession heading into the fourth quarter.
For the first time in the game, the Panthers put up the first score of a quarter. Bridgewater took the ball seven yards into the endzone and Slye put the extra point through, closing the gap to eight points, 25-17.
If Carolina had any chance to come back in the fourth quarter, they had to stop Denver’s offensive line from scoring. They forced the Broncos to punt in their opening drive, which was a good start.
The Panthers weren’t able to put a touchdown up on the next drive, they had the opportunity to attempt the touchdown at 4th and goal, but instead, Slye came out and put a field goal up, from 26 yards out. The score was 25-20 with just over five minutes to go. This decision will surely come under fire considering had they gone for the touchdown and made it, with or without the extra point, or two-point conversion, they would have won the game.
The Broncos answered with a touchdown in the next possession. Lock again connected with Hamler for a 49-yard score, giving Hamler his first career two-touchdown game. The score was 32-10 with five minutes to play.
Carolina came back in the next drive and put up another touchdown after Davis rushed the ball up the middle for a ten-yard TD. This brought the Panthers within a one touchdown score of the Broncos, 32-27 with three and a half minutes left in the game.
Unfortunately, the Panthers were unable to put up any more points, but they did hold the Broncos offensive line from putting anything else up as well. Denver will take the victory back home with them and improve their record, 5-8.
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