Panthers lose Super Bowl rematch in opener

Missed field goal dooms Carolina against Denver

Mark J. Rebilas—X02835
Sep 8

The Carolina Panthers came up just short against the Broncos again, losing 21-20 in a Super Bowl rematch on Thursday.Panthers kicker Graham Gano missed wide left on a potential game-winning 50-yard field goal attempt with nine seconds left in the game.Denver rallied with 14 fourth-quarter points to erase a 17-7 Carolina lead. Trevor Siemian hit running back C.J. Anderson for a 25-yard screen pass for one touchdown, and Anderson ran one yard for the go-ahead score. Anderson had a game-high 92 rushing yards on 20 carries.Siemian, who entered the game with one snap in the NFL, managed the game well for Denver, completing 18-of-26 passes for 178 yards and one score. He became the first NFL quarterback since 2009 to rally from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to win his first career start.Siemian and the Broncos moved the ball well early in the game against Carolina’s defense but were hampered by turnovers. Defensive end Charles Johnson forced a fumble on the Carolina 29 that was recovered by Shaq Thompson to end Denver’s first drive of the game. The Broncos’ second drive reached the 25 before Star Lotulelei tipped a pass that was intercepted by linebacker Thomas Davis.The Panthers added another interception, by Bene Benwikere, on the first drive of the second half.While Denver’s offense stalled inside the 30, the Panthers were reaching paydirt early. Cam Newton hit Kelvin Benjamin for a 14-yard touchdown on the team’s first drive.Benjamin played in an NFL game for the first time since the end of his rookie year. He missed all of last season after suffering a knee injury in training camp. Benjamin had six catches for 91 yards. Tight end Greg Olsen added seven catches for 73 yards.After Denver tied the score on a 28-yard touchdown run by rookie fullback Andy Janovich, Newton led the Panthers on a record-setting touchdown drive.Carolina marched 89 yards on a team-record 18 plays, covering 9:15 of the second quarter. Newton ran for 15 yards on the drive and completed 6 of 9 passes for 56 yards before he carried it the final two yards for his 44th career touchdown, breaking Hall of Famer Steve Young’s NFL records for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.Newton finished the game 18 of 33 for 194 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed 11 times for 54 yards. Newton passed and ran for touchdowns for the 32nd time in his career, which also set an NFL record.It was a long night for Newton. He was sacked three times and hit on several other occasions, including at least four helmet-to-helmet hits, one of which was flagged for unnecessary roughness. At one point, Newton appeared to suffer some type of leg injury and was in a great deal of pain on the sideline. He remained in the game, however.”Refs have a tough job,” Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said after the game, declining to comment on the shots to the head suffered by Newton. “We’ll see when we get a chance to look at the film.”Newton also declined the opportunity to criticize the non-calls on several of the hits he endured.”We all have jobs to do,” Newton said. “It’s not my job to question the officials. I really like this officiating crew. It wasn’t something I know they did intentionally, but it’s not fun to get hit in the head.”The Panthers also struggled with clock management. Carolina used two timeouts in the first eight minutes of the game and had none left for the final 11 minutes of the half. In the second half, Carolina used a timeout to decide whether or not to challenge a spot — the challenge was eventually successful. Newton was forced to use the team’s final time out in the final drive, when the team was slow getting out of the huddle.New Panthers punter Andy Lee had a big game in the thin Denver air. He had four punts for a 46.5 net including a 76-yard punt that broke a Panthers’ team record set by Todd Sauerbrun (73 yards in 2001).