The Denver Broncos added to their lead in the third quarter, and this time, it was the defense getting in on the act. A 40-yard interception return by Tony Carter pushed the Broncos lead to 24-7, a 17-point lead that would hold as the quarter came to a close.
Carter picked off Carolina quarterback Cam Newton on the right boundary and immediately took it down the sideline for the score. He was never touched as he cruised in for the easy touchdown. It was his second pick of the season, but he got a huge assist from the pass rush put on by Von Miller. Denver has been putting constant pressure on Newton all day, and it was Miller once again who was right in the face of the Panthers QB. Miller burst through the middle of the line, forcing Newton to spin around to avoid the rush. He went to his left, and as he launched the pass off-balance, Miller dove at his legs and brought him down. The pressure and subsequent scramble undoubtedly took something off the pass and Carter was right there on the other end.
The pick-six came right on the heels of a turnover by Peyton Manning. The Broncos offense has not been particularly sharp so far, but 14 points from the defense and special teams has them in control as the game moves to the fourth quarter.
The Denver Broncos lead the Carolina Panthers, 17-7, after one half in Charlotte. The Broncos reeled off 17 unanswered points to take the lead into the locker room, as all three phases contributed once again with Denver going for its fourth straight win.
The Broncos broke the 7-7 tie just seconds into the second quarter. For the second straight week, it was return man Trindon Holliday making the difference on special teams. Holliday took a 76-yard punt from Brad Nortman to the house for the 14-7 lead. The former LSU track star now has three returns for touchdowns this season. Last week, he opened the second half in Cincinnati with a 105-yard kick return, where he was never touched. This time, he had to do a little more dodging and weaving on his way to the end zone. He tip toed down the right sideline, narrowly beating the angle taken by the Panthers punter.
But there was some controversy over whether the touchdown should have counted, as replays showed Holliday dropping the ball at, or before, he crossed the plane. All touchdowns are automatically reviewed, but the officials did not overturn the score. Here's a gif of him hitting the goal line. You decide:
After one quarter in Charlotte, the Panthers and Broncos are knotted in a 7-7 tie. The Broncos offense went three-and-out on their first possession and picked up just 15 yards on their second drive before punting it away again. The Carolina offense controlled time of possession at the start of the game, but Manning and the Broncos offense finally got rolling on their last possession of the quarter.
Manning went over the top to a streaking Demaryius Thomas down the middle of the field for a big 32-yard gain that moved the offense into the red zone. Two plays later, the Broncos completely fooled the Carolina defense and Manning hit Brandon Stokely for a 10-yard touchdown. Denver sent three wide receivers out to the right, and Manning immediately left the pocket on a designed rollout to that side. Stokely sneakily moved back across the field to his left and was wide open as the entire Carolina defense rolled with Manning. The Denver QB dropped it right in and Stokeley scampered in for the score.
The touchdown brought the game even, as the Panthers struck first halfway through the opening quarter when Cam Newton hit Greg Olsen on a throwback pass to the left flat. Olsen was wide open and easily converted the four-yard touchdown on a completely uncovered left side of the field. Olsen and Newton did most of the work on the drive, with the Panthers' tight end hauling in catches of 16 and 26 yards before the touchdown.