On Sunday, Sam Darnold became the third player to start at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers in as many weeks. PJ Walkerwent down with a high ankle sprain and Baker Mayfield was swapped out after a forgettable performance in last week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Darnold, who spent time on Injured Reserve with a high ankle sprain of his own, was seeing live game action for the first time since last season. His touches in the preseason are negligible. Nevertheless, Darnold stepped under center ready to help Carolina salvage any chances they have at clinching the NFC South division.
Facing a top-3 defense in the Broncos, Carolina struck first with Darnold connecting with DJ Moore on a 5-yard touchdown pass to take an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. A muffed punt off the hands of Raheem Blackshear culminated in the Broncos’ only points of the first three quarters. The Russell Wilson-led offense got down to the 6-yard line before settling for a field goal to make the score 7-3 with 10:14 to play in the second quarter. Carolina answered with Pineiro connecting on the first of his three field goals and the Panthers took a 10-3 lead into the half.
After the intermission, Carolina’s lead grew to 14 as Darnold recovered his own fumble in the end zone for the touchdown. Pineiro added two more field goals in the fourth quarter and the Panthers enjoyed a 23-3 lead before Wilson connected with Brandon Johnson for a 1-yard touchdown with 3:24 left in the game. The Broncos then recovered the onside kick only to turn the ball over on downs; all but eliminating the chance for a miraculous comeback. Both Moore and Foreman were over 100 yards; a testament to balance on the offensive side of the ball. Darnold finished 11-of-19 for 164 yards, one touchdown, and a 103.8 passer rating. Wilson finished 19-of-35 for 142 yards, one touchdown and a 73.7 passer rating.
The Panthers improve to 4-8 on the season and will have a bye next week before traveling to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14.