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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Brandon Walker

Studs and duds from Broncos’ 23-10 loss to Panthers

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In Week 12, the Denver Broncos finally put together a complete game, but in the worst possible way. The Broncos lost their third straight game, a 23-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. We take a look at the studs and duds of yet another less-than-stellar performance.

Stud: Special teams

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Aside from Brandon McManus’ missed field goal just before halftime and a special teams fumble by Jalen Virgil, the Broncos’ special teams coverage unit was good. They forced the two turnovers, a muffed punt and recovered an onside kick. Corliss Waitman punted seven times and McManus added a field goal.

Dud: Russell Wilson

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Things have been close to rock bottom for the Broncos offense, but especially Russell Wilson. With the offense hitting levels of ineptitude not seen for 20-plus years, Wilson went 19-of-35 passing (a dismal 54.3 completion percentage) for 142 yards and one touchdown that came in garbage time. That touchdown marked the eighth passing score for Wilson on the season, as compared to five interceptions. The once-hopeful thought of a high-powered, high-scoring offense has dwindled to a flicker over the past 11 games.

Dud: Defense

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

The vaunted Broncos defense laid an egg against Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold during his first start of the season. Darnold easily moved the ball most of the game, controlling the clock and going 11-of-19 for 162 yards and a touchdown. Cornerback Pat Surtain got burned by D.J. Moore for a touchdown in the first quarter, leaving the second-year defender frustrated for a second-straight game. The defense gave up 23 points, their second-most points in a game this season.

Neither stud nor dud: Red zone offense

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

As the saying goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. This one says it all. Broncos receiver Brandon Johnson caught Russell Wilson’s 300th touchdown with 3:19 remaining in the game. The problem is, it took Denver nine plays to get there. The wacky sequence of events went as follows:

1st-and-goal (Carolina’s 7): Wilson sacked for six yards.

2nd-and-goal (Carolina’s 13): Russell Wilson fires a bullet to tight end Greg Dulcich for a touchdown. As the team celebrates, the officials throw a penalty flag, calling Dulcich for illegal touching, nullifying the score. The Panthers are also called for illegal contact. The penalties offset, replay second down.

2nd-and-goal (Carolina’s 13): Wilson throws to a diving Kendall Hinton, but the ball just sneaks between his arms, hitting the ground for an incomplete pass.

3rd-and-goal (Carolina’s 13): Incomplete pass.

Prior to the 4th and goal snap, there was a delay of game penalty.

4th-and-goal (Carolina’s 18): Incomplete pass. After the pass, the Panthers were called for roughing the passer. Half the distance to the goal, automatic 1st down.

1st-and-goal (Carolina’s 9): Wilson passes to wide receiver Kendall Hinton for eight yards.

2nd-and-goal (Carolina’s 1): Incomplete pass.

3rd-and-goal (Carolina’s 1): Wilson throws touchdown pass to Johnson.

This sequence sums up the entire season’s worth of red zone struggles for the Broncos. Luckily, they punched it in for the score, but it was too little, too late.

Denver’s offense is ugly, and the entire season has been ugly. Here’s to hoping things turn around in 2023.

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