On gameday morning, we examine five things to watch for in the Broncos home opener against Carolina. Since hindsight is 20/20, we’ll revisit those give things and see how the team did in each of these key areas he highlight.
1. Trevor Siemian vs. the Panthers front seven - Push
Trevor Siemian showed some good things last night, but he also struggled in particular against the front-7 of the Panthers as they batted two of his passes, with one going for an interception, and one negating a wide open would-be touchdown.
Siemian played pretty well overall, though, going 18 for 26 for 178 and a TD pass. He also beat the front-7 to the edge several times on scrambles for some first downs. Siemian showed good mobility all night to escape the rush and was only sacked when he held the ball too long against delayed blitzes.
2. Broncos need to get the running game going - Advantage Denver
Boy did it ever get going! Denver ran the ball for 148 yards on a top 5 defense. C.J. Anderson looked as smooth and quick as ever and ran with his usual power, taking defenders with him on nearly every play.
Andy Janovich busted a nice 28 yard TD run, and Trevor Siemian chipped in 20 yards as well.
Overall, Denver gained 5.1 yards per rush and picked up 9 first downs via the run. Additionally, the Broncos only had one tackle for loss. This was a far cry from the rushing offense we saw in the Super Bowl.
Great to see us impose our will on a great rushing defense.
3. Stopping the Carolina Panthers run game - Advantage Carolina
One of the biggest fears I had going into this game/season is our run stopping ability now that Walker went down. We did not look near as sharp in this area as our line got consistently pushed off the ball, and the Panthers, credit to them, called a great game with a lot of option and misdirection runs.
Jonathan Stewart ran for 64 yards on 15 carries and Cam Newton ran for 54 yards on 11.
Overall Carolina picked up 4.9 yards per carry which is definitely something our coaches will be looking to fix this week in practice.
The bright side is, this is probably the toughest offense we will face all year.
4. Broncos must pressure, hit, and sack Cam Newton...again - Advantage Denver
Cam Newton was sacked 3 times, and while it was not the domination that we saw in the Super Bowl, Denver was hitting Newton at least once or twice per drive. After one sack by DeMarcus Ware, Newton went down and looked to be hurt.
I thought the pressure got better as the game went on and came up big when it counted on those last drives. Give it to Carolina for scheming around Von Miller and double teaming him most the night.
One thing I did notice was the lack of middle pressure from our DTs. Wolfe has to step it up and we have to find other pass rushers from the interior to replace Malik Jackson’s production.
Overall though, against any other QB, this would have been a slaughter. Cam Newton avoided at least 3-4 sacks that I counted. He is just so hard to bring down, but the defense still harassed him and managed to shake him up a little bit.
5. Covering the massive Kelvin Benjamin - Advantage Carolina
I almost wanted to give this one a push because Benjamin was a non-factor for much of the second half, but did come up with a few catches late.
He finished the game with 6 catches for 91 yards and a TD against Chris Harris. Roby also had trouble bringing him down at one point.
Benjamin definitely adds another dimension to the Carolina offense. Tonight he got the best of the No Fly Zone several times.
Fortunately, we came away with a win. But the match-ups above are reflective of the tight game that we all saw. This one could have gone either way, but if I had to pick a top matchup, the Broncos getting their running game going pushed them over the edge in my opinion.
What are your thoughts, Broncos Country?