As weak as the AFC West is, one would think that the Denver Broncos would better represent the division as they are in 1st place and were 8-5 going into their game at Bank of America Stadium against the Carolina Panthers; that’s where the assumptions have little to no value. The Broncos made some noise for one quarter, then were dominated by the Panthers as wide receiver Steve Smith and some strong running by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart helped Carolina gain at least a tie for the NFC South divisional title as they thrashed Denver 30-10.
Denver drew first blood as quarterback Jay Cutler threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to running back P.J. Pope, giving the Broncos an early 7-0 lead; the Panthers would respond about 90 seconds later as Jake Delhomme tossed a 15-yard TD pass to Smith, tying things up at 7. Both teams would exchange field goals towards the end of the quarter as both teams went into the second quarter tied at 10.
From that point, it was all Carolina as they scored 20 unanswered points, including TD runs by Williams and Stewart and a pair of field goals by kicker John Kasay. Cutler had a mediocre game, going 21-of-33 for 172 yards with a TD and an interception while Delhomme fared a bit better, going 17-of-26 for 253 yards with a TD and an INT. P.J. Pope led the Broncos rushing attack with 51 yards on only 7 carries while Tatum Bell ran for 43 on only 6 carries; Williams led Carolina with 88 yards on only 12 carries and a TD while Stewart added 52 rushing yards and a score.
Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall led all Broncos receivers with 48 yards – with Royal catching 6 passes while Marshall caught 5; smith had a great game as he caught 9 passes for 165 yards and a score while Muhsin Muhammad caught 4 passes for 70 yards. Carolina (11-3) plays again next Aunday when they visit New York to take on the Giants while Denver (8-6) will try again to clinch the AFC West title when they host the Buffalo Bills – also next Sunday.