By Ted Fleming
Denver Broncos by the numbers
2012 Record: 5-3, (1st AFC West)
Record vs. Panthers: 2-1
Streak vs. Panthers: L1
Last Meeting: Panthers 30, Broncos 10 (December 12, 2008)
Next Game: Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte NC (73,504)
The word is not exactly an inviting one, but Carolina will “welcome” back John Fox, the man who roamed the Panthers’ sidelines for nine years, this Sunday. His departure from Charlotte came after a 2-14 season which, in a way, helped the team get the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft where they took someone with a Heisman Trophy under one arm and a national championship under the other.
Fox had an up and down career with the Panthers, getting them to the playoffs three times including their only Super Bowl appearance. And if you take away that final, ugly season, he was 71-57. The now 57-year old and his entire staff was let go by owner Jerry Richardson after an alleged rift between the two became public. A number of those coaches followed him to Denver.
The focus on Fox will be brief because after the initial cheers or more likely boos rain down on him, it will all be forgotten as uniform #18 trots out on the Bank of America Stadium turf for the first, and possibly only time as member of the Denver Broncos.
Peyton Manning and that guy from Auburn with all the hardware, Cam Newton, will do battle with the former having an eye on the postseason while the latter is just trying to survive against the future Hall of Famer.
Manning has had a remarkable recovery from neck issues that sidelined him for an entire year. Many skeptics didn’t think he would have the kind of success he is enjoying now, at least not this soon. Nevertheless, the numbers are striking – a 106.8 passer rating (first in the NFL), 20 TD passes (3rd) and 2,404 passing yards (T-4th). In eight games he has been picked off just six times, and despite being generally considered a sitting duck in the pocket, defenses have sacked him just 10 times. By comparison, Aaron Rogers, Jay Cutler, Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb have been dropped at least 27.
The Panthers’ defense is in the upper half of the league against the pass–13th–but they will definitely have their hands full with Manning, who leads the 4th best passing offense throwing for more than 292-yards a game. And if Willis McGahee starts to run wild, the Broncos are capable of throwing up some big numbers on the board.
Cam Newton has a herculean task in front of him, especially if Carolina falls behind early. If the 23-year old quarterback tries to match Manning step for step it will backfire – big time. Newton needs to repeat what he did against the Redskins, stick with the game plan and play with confidence. If he does that and still loses he will have nothing to hang his head about.
- Both teams rank at the bottom of the league in turnover margin (DEN minus 4 – 23rd, CAR minus 5 – T24th),
- The Panthers hold a slight edge in the ground game, 116.3 to 106.9, despite Cam Newton being the team’s top rusher with 347-yards. Willis McGahee tops the Broncos with 620,
- Denver punter Britton Colquitt is averaging 46.8 yards (43.1 net) outkicking Carolina’s Brad Nortman who is at 40.7 gross and 35.9 net,
- Head coach John Fox spent nine seasons (2002-10) as the Panthers head coach.
- Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was the Panthers defensive coordinator in 2002.
- Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy spent several seasons on the Panthers coaching staff, serving as an offensive assistant in 2000, wide receivers coach in 2001, quarterbacks/ offensive assistant in 2002, quarterbacks coach from 2003-06, and as the passing game coordinator/quarterbacks.
- Special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers spent 2009 with the Panthers as a special teams assistant before serving as the Panther special teams coordinator in 2010.
- Secondary assistant Sam Garnes spent the 2010 season as the Panthers special teams assistant.
- Offensive line coach Dave Magazu coached tight ends with the Panthers from 2003-06 before coaching the Panthers offensive line from 2007-10.
- Secondary coach Ron Milus coached the Panthers secondary from 2009-10.
- Linebackers coach Richard Smith spent 2009-10 with the Panthers where he also served as the linebackers coach.
- Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert was the Panthers wide receivers coach in 2010.
- Center Jeff Byers spent the 2010 season with the Broncos, competing on the club’s practice squad before being elevated to the active roster for the final two games of the season.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.