NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 14 PFF ReFocused: Denver Broncos 32, Carolina Panthers 27

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) looks to pass the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Lock put together arguably his most efficient game of the season, picking apart the Carolina Panthers‘ secondary with ease to lead the Denver Broncos to a 32-27 Week 14 victory. 

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

Story of the game

Lock met little to no resistance from the Panthers' secondary, as the second-year quarterback posted a career-high 149.5 passer rating. He managed to complete a season-high 77.8% of his passes, including connecting on 77% of his passes of 10-plus yards downfield. On those throws, Lock tossed three of his four total touchdowns on the day. Rookie wideout K.J. Hamler was on the receiving end of two of those scores. The rookie out of Penn State caught two passes for two touchdowns and led all receivers in yards (86) in the contest. 

The Broncos’ offense was slow out the gate but received some help from the special teams unit thanks to a Diontae Spencer 83-yard punt return touchdown in the first quarter. Denver held a commanding lead for the majority of the game, taking a 25-10 edge into the final frame. Teddy Bridgewater had a 100% adjusted completion percentage in the fourth quarter while making a late comeback attempt and even bringing the Panthers to within one score. Ultimately, it was not enough — the Broncos' defense forced a turnover on downs with under two minutes to play. 

With Carolina missing two of its biggest playmakers — Christian McCaffrey and D.J. MooreRobby Anderson, Mike Davis and Curtis Samuel were thrust into a larger offensive role. Anderson (12), Samuel (8) and Davis (6) were the top three targets for Bridgewater through the air. This was Anderson’s eighth game this season with at least 70 yards receiving (he had five such games last season). 

The Panthers' defense forced a Lock fumble that was almost returned for a touchdown in the second quarter, marking the fifth straight game in which Carolina's defense recovered a fumble.

Dec 13, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver KJ Hamler (13) scores a touchdown in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie Watch

The duo of Jerry Jeudy and Hamler combined for 128 of Lock’s 280 passing yards, and each had two receptions gaining 10-plus yards. Lock was sacked only once on the day, and that was given up by rookie guard Netane Muti, who also allowed three pressures on the day. Center Lloyd Cushenberry III allowed just one pressure on 30 pass-blocking snaps. For the Panthers, rookie running back Rodney Smith carried the ball twice for 10 yards and caught two passes on the day. 

On the other side of the ball, cornerback Michael Ojemudia played 65 defensive snaps while being targeted eight times. He allowed six catches for 84 yards and forced one incompletion. 

For Carolina, five rookies saw at least 30 snaps on the defensive side of the ball. Jeremy Chinn led the way with 65 snaps. He recorded eight tackles and a sack. Derrick Brown, a rookie out of Auburn, accounted for three pressures. Bravvion Roy, Yetur Gross-Matos and Troy Pride Jr. round out the group of Panthers rookies with at least 30 defensive snaps. Those three combined for five tackles.

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