Both the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos and the runner-up Carolina Panthers kicked off their NFL season Thursday. In their first preseason games, Carolina fell to the Baltimore Ravens 22-19, while Denver shut out the Chicago Bears 22-0.
Reigning league MVP Cam Newton had a very limited evening and was on the field for only one series. Newton led a 68-yard drive and went 5 for 6 for 36 yards before being replaced by Derek Anderson.
The Panthers offense looked sharp with Newton leading the way. He completed all five of his passes on a 14-play opening drive before overthrowing Ted Ginn Jr. in the end zone on his sixth attempt. The Panthers would settle for a field goal.
Anderson threw for one touchdown to Devin Funchess to put Carolina up 10-0, but it would be a Ravens team without QB Joe Flacco or linebacker Terrell Suggs to pull ahead and log their first preseason win. Ryan Mallet got the start for Baltimore in Flaco’s absence going 11 for 15 for 91 yards and a TD.
As for the defending champion Broncos, they picked up right where they left off in the Super Bowl. The defense led the charge for a shutout in their preseason debut. As a team the Broncos sacked the Bears seven times. Special teams even joined in on the onslaught with a blocked kick-off returned for a touchdown.
On the offensive end, Mark Sanchez put on a performance that could win him the starting job over Trevor Siemian. He was 10 for 13 after one quarter of play where he connected with Demaryius Thomas for a deep TD. He also threw a pick in the second quarter before Siemian entered the game. Sieman would finish going 7 for 12 and 88 yards in the second quarter.