Tale of Two Halves
It's a clichéd phrase, but it was too true Thursday night.
Despite allowing the Broncos to gain a bunch of yards, the Panthers took a somewhat comfortable 17-7 lead into halftime.
QB Cam Newton, who was sacked six times in the Super Bowl, wasn't in the first half. Denver OLB Von Miller had just one tackle.
But then came the second half, which looked a lot like what happened seven months ago. Newton was under duress on nearly every dropback and completed just 7 of his 16 passes for 83 yards and an interception. He was sacked three times.
The only points the Panthers scored in the second half came on a 36-yard Graham Gano field goal. Four minutes later, his game-winning 50-yard attempt sailed wide left.
Lots of Helmet-to-Helmet, Few Flags
While the Broncos were chasing Newton around in the second half, they made helmet-to-helmet contact at least four times. Only the fourth was called, and that head shot by S Darian Stewart didn't even end up counting since Newton was flagged for intentional grounding.
For a league that claims player safety is its utmost priority, it's awfully disconcerting to see the reigning MVP take so many hits to the head with little consequence to the defense.
The Broncos' three turnovers all came after they drove to or past the Panthers' 30-yard line. If not for those, the final score could've been worse.
Seven months after the Broncos totaled just 194 yards in the Super Bowl, they put up 307. 148 of those came on the ground, where the Panthers are usually stout. Including the postseason, they allowed only one of their past 12 opponents (Giants, Week 15) to reach 100 rushing yards.
Up next for the Panthers: The 49ers and coach Chip Kelly, whose high-tempo offense is 1-for-2 against Carolina.