The Denver Broncos rallied past the Carolina Panthers for a 21-20 win in the NFL season opener on Thursday.
In a rematch of Super Bowl 50 at Sports Authority Field, the Broncos again came out on top.
A 14-yard pass from Cam Newton to Kelvin Benjamin set up the first touchdown of the season, with fullback Andy Janovich's 28-yard run the response by the Broncos.
The Panthers led 17-7 before C.J. Anderson scored two TDs in the fourth quarter.
Graham Gano had a 50-yard field-goal attempt to win it for the Panthers, but he missed with seconds remaining.
Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian completed 18 of 26 passes for 178 yards and a TD, while Newton, beaten and battered throughout, had 194 yards and a TD.
But the star of the game was Broncos running back Anderson, who scored twice while running for 92 yards on 20 carries and catching four passes for 47 yards.
WORSE FOR THE WARE
Momentum shifted after Newton was sacked by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller rolled onto Newton's right ankle. Newton fell to the ground on the sideline and was tended to by trainers. He walked off the injury and returned for the next series, but the sack seemed to suck the energy out of the Panthers.
C.J.'S BIG DAY
Anderson carried the load for the Broncos, accounting for 139 of the team's 307 yards.
RIVERA RESERVES JUDGMENT
Panthers coach Ron Rivera acknowledged the number of hits Newton took to the head, most of which went unpenalised.
"There were a couple shots he took and we'll look at it," Rivera told reporters. "I'm going to wait until I see the tape. I'm not going to pass judgment on anyone. The referees were doing the best they can."
The Broncos appear poised to defend their Super Bowl title as Siemian managed the game well. He was efficient and neither interception was fully his fault. One was a tipped pass and the other was a result of pressure. If he can manage the game like he did Thursday, coupled with Denver's ground game with Anderson and a solid defense, there is no reason why the Broncos should not be among the favorites in the NFC.
For the Panthers, the extra few days off before their next game on September 18 should allow Newton to heal up after taking a beating. While the Panthers are disappointed with the loss, Newton turned in an MVP-worthy performance. The loss might simply fuel them the rest of the year.