DENVER — Graham Gano pushed a 50-yard field goal attempt wide left with 4 seconds remaining as the Broncos held on to beat the Carolina Panthers, 21-20, in a rematch of Super Bowl 50 to kick off the 2016 regular season on Thursday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Broncos beat the Panthers, 24-10, in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.
The Broncos dominant defense came up big in the fourth quarter, rallying from a 10-point defense against Cam Newton and the Panthers. The Broncos sacked Newton three times and hit him another eight times.
“We wanted to make sure we got to him,” safety T.J. Ward said. “Every time he ran we tried to put helmet and shoulder pads on him. If you’re not going to slide we’re going to put something on you. We saw him limping throughout the game so that running stuff, you can’t do that all game.”
It was the first NFL start for quarterback Trevor Siemian, who beat out Mark Sanchez for the starting job. He completed 18 of 26 passes for 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Newton drove the Panthers into field goal range with a 16-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin and a short pass to Ted Ginn Jr. with seconds remaining.
Gano made the kick after the Broncos called timeout, then went wide left.
“I was going to drill it, no doubt in my mind,” Gano said. “But this happens. It’s not going to define my season.”
“We’ve got a heck of a team, a resilient team. I think you saw that tonight,” Siemian said.
The Panthers took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Newton, who was 18 of 33 for 194 yards, found Benjamin on a 14-yard pass.
The Broncos responded to open the second quarter with a 28-yard touchdown run from rookie fullback Andy Janovich to tie it up.
The game wasn’t tied for long as Newton drove the Panthers to the 2-yard line and ran it in for a touchdown late to make it 14-7. Gano made a 44-yard field goal just before halftime to make it 17-7.
It stayed that way until the fourth quarter, when Siemian found C.J. Anderson on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 25-yard screen pass to make it 17-14.
Newton’s next pass was intercepted by Chris Harris Jr. at the Panthers 23. Anderson barreled his way in from the 1 — after the Broncos earlier went for it on fourth down — to put the Broncos ahead, 21-17, with 9:26 to play.
The Panthers drove but stalled, settling for a 36-yard field goal from Gano to make it 21-20. The Broncos went three-and-out, setting up the dramatic final 3:06.
Like the Super Bowl, the Broncos defense harassed Newton, with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller sacking the quarterback. At one point, Newton was struggling to get to the bench.
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Miller made a big play late, sweeping past right tackle Mike Remmers and sacking Newton at the two-minute warning. A penalty on fourth-and-21 kept the Panthers drive alive.
Recap the game with our live blog.