Gano misses wide left, Broncos survive Panthers’ final flurry: 10 takeaways
C.J. Anderson mounted a fourth-quarter comeback to lead the Broncos to a 21-20 win on opening night
The Broncos overcame a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit against the Panthers to deny reigning-MVP Cam Newton some sweet revenge. Instead of revenge, the Panthers depart Denver knowing full well that they blew a game against the team that left them battered and bruised after Super Bowl 50.
In the first game of the 2016 NFL season, the defending Super Bowlchampion Broncos knocked off the Panthers, 21-20, despite three costly turnovers that nearly sunk them.
A game that included an injury to Newton’s leg — and repeated, questionable, and mostly uncalled shots to his head — C.J. Anderson turning into the fantasy player of his owners’ dreams, and Kelvin Benjamin’s triumphant return ended up coming down to Gary Kubiak’s decision to ice Carolina kicker Graham Gano.
In the final seconds of the game, Gano pulled a potential game-winning 50-yard field wide of the uprights. And the Broncos survived opening night despite trotting out a quarterback with zero career passes to his name, riding on the back of Anderson and the Broncos’ defense — and luck — to win the Super Bowl rematch.
But those few paragraphs alone can hardly capture the madness that went down in Denver on Thursday night. Let’s get to it.
1. A whacky final drive
Gano made his first game-winning try from 50 yards, squeezing the football through the right upright. But Kubiak called timeout a second before the Panthers snapped the football, so Gano was forced to kick again.
He missed, pulling the kick wide-left.
He should’ve never even have gotten the chance. With just over two minutes remaining in the game, the Panthers regained possession of the ball down by a single point. They didn’t get off to a hot start. On third-and-15 with 2:15 left, Von Miller sacked Newton for loss of 7 yards.
Facing a fourth-and-22 after the two-minute warning, the game appeared to be lost. Stupidity extended Carolina’s life, when the Broncos’ Chris Harris was flagged for illegal hands to the face on fourth-and-22, which resulted in an automatic first down.
The Panthers returned the stupidity, calling their final timeout before a third down because they broke the huddle too slowly. They did, at least, gain the necessary yards to prolong the game.
Stupidity, again, followed. This time, with Newton in their sights and with nowhere to throw, the Broncos’ defense targeted Newton’s head, walloping him as he tossed the football way. They were flagged for roughing the passer, but the penalty was negated because Newton’s floater failed to reach the line of scrimmage.
Two teams that played into February a year ago hardly looked like composed contenders.
Eventually, Newton drove the Panthers into field-goal range in the final seconds. But Gano couldn’t convert on the chance to send the Panthers home with a win.
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