Broncos-Panthers grades: Only the ground game was functional

Nov 29, 2022, 8:10 PM | Updated: Nov 30, 2022, 1:12 am
Sam Darnold...
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The progress Denver appeared to make against Las Vegas evaporated in Carolina, pushing the Broncos back to square one on offense — and leading to their most frustrating day of the season on defense, as Carolina consistently pushed the Broncos back, searing them up the middle.

Week 12 saw little to like.



Once again, Russell Wilson missed opportunities to find open receivers. Once again, his accuracy was subpar. Once again, he found himself under siege and struggling to escape as Carolina kept him within the pocket. Three drops didn’t help matters, dropping his completion percentage below the 60-percent baseline once again. But Wilson still appears to have issues locating open targets, and all of the rhythm he found early in Week 11 vanished by Sunday in Charlotte.


Ball security is job security for not only QBs, but running backs, as well. Latavius Murray protected the football, delivered the Broncos’ first explosive run of the season — a 52-yarder — and ran with purpose and power once again. Marlon Mack saw limited work. Combined, Mack and Murray averaged 110 yards on 17 touches — healthy 6.5-yard average. What the Broncos should do is emphasize them more and utilize more two- and three-tight-end sets. This offers the best chance for success, especially with the wide-receiver corps still hurting.


Courtland Sutton got a tough-luck personal foul, reacting to what should have been a face mask against Carolina CB Jaycee Horn. But once again, he dropped a pass — his fourth in as many weeks. Kendall Hinton and Montrell Washington also dropped passes. The Broncos tried to make Washington happen Sunday; Wilson targeted him three times, beginning on the first-play, with a poorly-set-up bubble screen.


Greg Dulcich struggled in limited pass-protection repetitions, but he wasn’t done any favors by only being targeted three times by Wilson. No other tight ends were involved in the passing game Sunday. Eric Tomlinson delivered in limited run-blocking work.


While Graham Glasgow continues to bring stability up the middle, the susceptibility to premium edge rushers remains. Quinn Meinerz was on the business end of a Brian Burns stunt, leading directly to a sack. Cam Fleming and Calvin Anderson each conceded three pressures of Wilson, although Anderson delivered solid work blocking for Latavius Murray.



Dre’Mont Jones drew a pair of holding penalties in the game. In the wake of the Bradley Chubb trade, Denver opponents are hyper-focused on containing him, and while he still manages to generate pressure, he’s looking for his first post-Chubb sack. Enyi Uwazurike saw his most extended action to date and held up well against the run, and Matt Henningsen was also solid, playing with energy on his snaps. Both earned longer looks.


With limited opportunities as the Panthers passed just 19 times, pressure was minimal off the edge. Of greater concern were the issues that the outside linebackers had in setting the edge. These problems began before the Bradley Chubb trade, but have been exacerbated in the last two weeks.


Alex Singleton once again justified his place in the starting lineup, especially agains the run. Singleton and Jewell kept a slew of carries from becoming explosive ones by filling gaps at the second level. Jewell also forced the Sam Darnold fumble that the QB recovered for his score. The burst of energy Jewell and Singleton provided was needed on a day when frustration mounted for much of the defense.


Pat Surtain was on the wrong end of three D.J. Moore receptions. More than half of the yards gained at his expense this season came in the last two weeks. Damarri Mathis missed a pair of tackles, but held up well in coverage. Essang Bassey held his own, but in general this was a day to forget as the defense in general cracked under the strain of holding up a sagging offense for so many weeks.


Much of the work was in run support, with Justin Simmons often serving as the single-high safety as the Broncos tried to stop Carolina’s rampaging run game. Justin Simmons missed a tackle.



Windy conditions didn’t help Brandon McManus on his 56-yard attempt at the end of the second quarter. He had the distance, but pushed it wide left. There were no issues on the other two placekicks. But McManus is now 4-of-7 from 50-59 yards this season, with a 57.1-percent success rate that is 14.5 percentage points below the league-average rate.


The ironic thing for Corliss Waitman is that his worst punt was actually the most productive. A low, line-drive punt led to a Raheem Blackshear muff and a Delarrin Turner-Yell recovery. Blackshear appeared to lose the ball in the sun and didn’t adjust well to the shorter-than-expected punt.


One punt return had two — two! — separate infractions. The insertion of Jalen Virgil for a fourth-quarter kickoff return led to a fumble that effectively gave the Panthers three free points. Those miscues negated generally solid work on returns. Montrell Washington did the right thing letting a first-quarter punt sail over his head, planting his feet at the Denver 10-yard line.


Blackshear had a 21-yard punt return, but Turner-Yell was also Johnny on the spot to recover his second-quarter muff. Both of McManus’ kickoffs were touchbacks.


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