The NFL’s opening night game was an absolute doozy. A mile up in the thin air of Denver, the Super Bowl champs, sans the retired Peyton Manning, took down the Carolina Panthers in a come-from-behind fashion that bore some uncanny resemblances to their takedown of this same Panthers squad 200-odd days ago in Super Bowl 50.
That’s Denver’s newly christened starting quarterback, Trevor Siemian, talking to NFL Radio about the victory being a team effort. Broad platitudes and cliches aside, Siemian is 100% correct about the win. Denver’s offensive line routinely outplayed Carolina’s front seven, creating gaps for CJ Anderson, and a freeway lane for the bruising Andy Janovich to run through on his 28-yard touchdown gallop.
Siemian himself was somewhat inconsistent in his first NFL start. Tossing two careless interceptions and never really finding the rhythm with his receivers, Siemian’s game management and mildly surprising mobility kept a number of drives alive. Siemian’s presence was enough, behind a very smart scheme by Denver’s head coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak’s reliance on CJ Anderson was to be expected, and the play-action that this reliance created was a boon to Denver’s offense. Ball-control running, nickel and diming passing and a strangling defense? If all of this sounds familiar it should, it’s the exact recipe the Broncos employed through last season and in Super Bowl 50. The more things change and all that…
But about that bruising Denver defense, did Carolina not learn anything from the Super Bowl? It’s only a one-game sample size, but early results suggest “maybe not.” Denver routinely dominated the line of scrimmage, not to the tune of the astonishing tour de force that was the Super Bowl, but the Broncos routinely throttled the Panthers at the point of attack. Cam Newton once again was pressured far more than he’s accustomed to and found himself on his back after being sacked three times and receiving punishing hits (late, legal, illegal, the hits don’t happen if there’s better protection.) The good news for Carolina? Well, for one, they’re playing the Niners at home in Week 2. More good news? Despite still having to face Minnesota, Seattle, Kansas City and Arizona, all very good defenses, none of those shall be as ferocious a test as the one they just endured against these Broncos. Denver’s still king of the NFL jungle and they’ve once again put the rest of the league on notice that they’re reign on the top will not be ceded without a fight.
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