Sometimes you just have to give credit to the opposition. Such is the case after the Panthers beat the Broncos 30-10 on Sunday.
“The better team won today,” Broncos’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall candidly told 850 KOA after the game.
Sometimes football isn’t that complicated.
The Panthers’ offense features running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, one of the best, if not the best, rushing duos in the NFL. “Smash and Dash” lived up to the hype. The Panthers racked up 147 yards rushing and Williams’ 56 yard touchdown run on Carolina’s first series of the third quarter ended up putting the game out of reach.
On top of the effective rushing game, wide receiver Steve Smith again showed that he is well past his training camp issues, hauling in 9 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown.
The Broncos defense had been making progress but all of that was too much to overcome on the Panthers’ home field. Carolina closes out the regular season a perfect 8-0 at Bank of America Stadium.
I would have loved seeing a healthy Champ Bailey get a chance to cover Smith one-on-one. I’m not so sure the result would have been the same. Smith probably would have made his share catches but Champ undoubtedly would have made some plays, too. And he probably would have made it harder for the Panthers to establish their passing game early.
The Broncos can be encouraged by their early offensive success. Jay Cutler drove the team to a touchdown and a field goal on the first two possessions. That was a terrific start.
But they needed to continue that. I know, it’s easier said than done. For some reason, the Broncos lost their momentum. Chris Gamble intercepted Cutler at the Denver 27 yard line and soon after, the Panthers tied the game at 10 on John Kasay’s 39 yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the first quarter. Denver could never regroup.
I’ll give the Panthers some of the credit for that. Gamble made a huge play. The Panthers had an opportunity, they seized it and built on it. Good teams do that. The Panthers were the good team on Sunday.
And they have been a really good team this season. You don’t get to 11-3 by accident and you don’t battle for the top seed in the NFL by being a fluke.
The issue for the Broncos becomes whether or not they will be a good team next Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. If they are, then they will find themselves champions of the AFC West and bound for the playoffs.
If they are not a good team next Sunday, then the Broncos could be going to San Diego on December 28th with a division title and a playoff spot hanging in the balance.
Like I said, sometimes football isn’t that complicated.
What do the Broncos have to do to beat the Bills? Feel free to weigh in; I enjoy reading your posts.
Thanks for reading and have a great week.