Broncos @ Panthers
Final Score: Panthers 23, Broncos 10
Writer: Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)
It was a windy day in Carolina, but even Zach Wilson can’t use the wind as an excuse for how poorly Russell Wilson and the Broncos played in this game. Wilson looked like a USFL QB who learned the playbook from Checkdown Charlie and couldn’t progress through more than one read. Yes, I am referring to former Super Bowl champion Russell, not 2nd year man Zach. It was that bad for Russ.
Special teams was a factor in this game. The Panthers’ punter had a few nice punts deep into Broncos territory, including one that was downed at the three which forced the Broncos to start their first drive off from there. The Panthers successfully converted a fake punt on their third drive, which set the tone for the rest of the day and led to a Sam Darnold five yard TD toss to DJ Moore. The Panthers fumbled a punt deep in their own territory but stepped up with a defensive stop to hold Denver to three, and later on, the Broncos fumbled a kickoff which led to a Carolina field goal.
Yes, you read that right. Sam Darnold started for Carolina and he actually didn’t look terrible. He showed some impressive chemistry with DJ Moore, which hopefully should bode well for Moore’s fantasy prospects in the coming weeks. Overall, this game was never close and the Broncos have some big decisions to make in the coming days regarding their coaching staff.
Russell Wilson: 19/35, 142 Yards, TD | 2 Carries, 8 Yards, 1 Fumble (Lost)
This is just… It’s a mix of awful playcalling and Wilson either being unwilling to or unable to throw the ball downfield. It seemed that all of his yardage came from dump-offs or screens, and most of it actually came once Carolina had shifted to zone defense at the end of both halves. I fact, Wilson had 10 yards passing in the first 25 minutes of gameplay and he doubled that on their last two drives by dumping off to wide-open receivers four yards downfield on every play. It’s straight-up embarrassing at this point.
Wilson was under pressure by Brian Burns all day long, and Burns got to him in the 2nd quarter. Burns forced a fumble in a strange play that initially looked like an incomplete pass but was then called a fumble on the field recovered by Carolina.
Give Brian Burns the blank check. pic.twitter.com/ltMBsuS33T
— PFF CAR Panthers (@PFF_Panthers) November 27, 2022
Sometimes it’s almost like Wilson is content with punts. There were multiple third and longs that he just dumped it off to either a RB or TE in the flat for three or so yards and then punted. Like, why? What is even the point? Wilson only makes plays when they’re off schedule and things have completely broken down, and even then it’s questionable.
Denver D appears to be rightfully getting pissed at Russell Wilson after another inept offensive performance:pic.twitter.com/6BzaUI36FJ
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) November 27, 2022
Carolina went quarters zone defense in the 4th quarter, up 20, and Wilson still dinked and dunked up and down the field. Then he had this incredible sequence where he threw four touchdown passes but only one counted:
- Courtland Sutton made an awesome, Willie Mays-like catch over his shoulder and went down to the ground around the five. He got up and ran into the end zone but it was ruled that the defender touched him with his foot
- Two plays later, Wilson hit Greg Dulcich for a TD pass in the back of the end zone. However, offsetting penalties negated it.
- On the next play, Wilson hit Kendall Hinton for a TD, except the ball hit the ground and it didn’t count.
- On fourth and goal, Wilson threw a jump ball that went incomplete but the defender threw him to the ground and was called for roughing the passer. Denver got the ball back at the 2 yard line with a fresh set of downs.
- On first down, Hinton caught a ball at the one but couldn’t extend the ball over the goal line before he was tackled. It should have been a touchdown if Hinton reached the ball out right away rather than waiting to get hit by the defender and then reaching out.
- On 2nd down, Wilson threw it behind Sutton in the back of the end zone. Sutton let it go through his hands.
- On 3rd and goal, Wilson finally connected with… Brandon Johnson for a touchdown pass, his 300th career regular-season TD pass which tied John Elway for 13th most all time.
The Broncos then recovered an onside kick but weren’t able to do anything with it. It didn’t really matter, because the game was over long before that point.
Latavius Murray: 13 Carries, 92 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 6 Yards
Marlon Mack: 2 Carries, 7 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 5 Yards
Montrell Washington: 1 Carry, 1 Yard | 3 Targets, 1 Reception, -3 Yards
Devine Ozigbo: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 3 Yards
Latavius Murray actually didn’t look too bad in this game. He ran someone over, when’s the last time you saw that? He also had a 52-yard run where he cut inside to find a hole then juked a defender and bounced it outside for a huge gain.
Latavius Murray breaks free ?pic.twitter.com/uUbGKWpDgE
— Broncos Country (@BroncoCountryCP) November 27, 2022
Take this run out and it’s still a relatively respectable 12/40, but with little to no passing down work and a lack of TD opportunities it was still an empty day for Murray fantasy-wise.
Marlon Mack has bounced around from Houston to the 49ers and now to Denver, and he had his first carry of the season midway through the third quarter. It went for seven yards and that’s all I have to say about Marlon Mack this season.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Kendall Hinton: 1 Carry, 13 Yards | 9 Targets, 5 Receptions, 35 Yards
Courtland Sutton: 8 Targets, 6 Receptions, 75 Yards
Greg Dulcich: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 11 Yards
Brandon Johnson: 4 Targets, 2 Receptions, 10 Yards, TD
Jalen Virgil: 2 Targets, 1 Fumble (Lost)
The broadcast has literally nothing nice to say about the Broncos offense so they've resorted to filling time with a Greg Dulcich-Weird Al comparison bit … ? pic.twitter.com/RZBKTpjVn7
— Romi Bean (@Romi_Bean) November 27, 2022
To be fair, I don’t really have anything nice to say about the Broncos’ offense either. Courtland Sutton made a couple really nice catches to bail the offense out. Kendall Hinton is, for some reason, the Broncos’ swiss army knife and they are trying to find all kinds of ways to get the ball in his hands. He had multiple drops, including a dropped TD. Greg Dulcich can’t be relied upon on a weekly basis but boy is he talented, and wow he really does look like Weird Al.
Sam Darnold: 11/19, 164 Yards, TD | 3 Carries, 3 Yards, TD, 1 Fumble (Recovered)
I’m not going to say I was impressed by Sam Darnold in this game, because he wasn’t overly impressive. I will say I was surprised with how competent he looked considering just how bad he was before he was benched last season. He looked much closer to early-2021 Darnold than late-2021 Darnold, but it wasn’t an elite performance. He threw a few nice balls to DJ Moore, a few bad ones to Moore and Raheem Blackshear, including one that sailed over Blackshear’s head by a solid five feet on a screen pass. Darnold rolled out a lot, which gave him time to look downfield towards Moore or dump it off to a tight end in the flat. He threw over Tommy Tremble‘s hands in the end zone on 3rd and goal, and a better throw would have easily been a touchdown. Overall, when Darnold had time to throw he was pretty accurate and he also did a good job of sliding around in the pocket whenever he was pressured.
He did score a touchdown on the ground in the most ridiculous way you’ll ever see, recovering his own fumble and rolling into the endzone untouched.
Sam Darnold with the “stop drop & roll” TD ?
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 27, 2022
When the Broncos are losing to teams who literally roll into the end zone for a TD, you know it’s time to pull the plug.
Sam Darnold showing Baker Mayfield who should've been drafted first in the 2018 Draft. pic.twitter.com/V64ng0BctM
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 27, 2022
D’Onta Foreman: 24 Carries, 113 Yards
Chuba Hubbard: 17 Carries, 65 Yards
Sean Chandler: 1 Carry, 2 Yards
Raheem Blackshear: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 11 Yards, 1 Fumble (Lost)
The main difference between D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard is that when Chuba is touched by a defender he goes down, while when Foreman is touched by a defender it is the defender who gets slammed into the ground. Foreman clearly learned a lot from the Derrick Henry school of rushing last season, and he’s carried those skills over into this year and is looking every bit like a featured back for the Panthers. Foreman is able to run over defenders, as he did multiple times on Sunday, or sidestep them and run right by, as he also did multiple times on Sunday. Foreman was able to cut to the outside and run around the edge for a long gain when there was nowhere for him to run up the middle, but he also doesn’t try to do that on every play. He’s very careful to pick and choose when he tries to bowl over defenders and make his own room up the middle rather than bouncing outside and trying to beat guys by speed alone. This was Foreman’s 7th career 100-yard game and he earned every last yard. Foreman did limp off the field with a lower back injury in the third quarter but was able to return shortly after.
Chuba Hubbard, on the other hand, is supposed to be the flashy change of pace back but I just don’t see it. He’s quicker on his feet than Foreman but he just doesn’t seem to have the “it” factor. There were multiple occasions where Hubbard was knocked over by a defender with relative ease on a play where most backs would be able to stay on their feet. Maybe it’s a balance issue? I’m no RB whisperer, but I just don’t see anything special out of Hubbard that makes me want to roster him in fantasy for any reason.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Laviska Shenault Jr.: 1 Carry, 2 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 19 Yards
DJ Moore: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 103 Yards, TD
Ian Thomas: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 21 Yards
Terrace Marshall Jr.: 3 Targets, 1 Reception, 8 Yards
Tommy Tremble: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 2 Yards
DJ Moore was the biggest beneficiary of Sam Darnold‘s insertion into the starting lineup, and the two showed clear chemistry that Moore hasn’t had with either Baker Mayfield or PJ Walker. Moore had a touchdown catch near the end of the 1st quarter in the back of the end zone on a nice play-action fake by Darnold.
In his first game of the season, Sam Darnold quickly throws for a touchdown to DJ Moore.pic.twitter.com/KgjyENa1B3
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 27, 2022
Darnold connected with Moore four times on the day, including deep downfield on the sideline which was a great throw. He also threw a duck to Moore on the same sideline earlier in the game that took forever to get there, but Moore was able to come down with it. Moore did almost make a toe-tapping on the sideline early in the game but wasn’t able to get both feet down. With Pat Surtain roaming the field for Denver and shadowing Moore for much of the game, it wasn’t a high-volume day but it was still good enough if you were forced to insert Moore into your lineup.