(The Sports Xchange) - The Denver Broncos began the new season the same way they ended last season, by beating the Carolina Panthers.
In the NFL’s kickoff game, C.J. Anderson ran for a score and caught another in the fourth quarter, and the Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 21-20 on Thursday night in a Super Bowl rematch.
Denver beat the Panthers 24-10 in the championship game seven months ago.
Trevor Siemian, starting in place of the retired Peyton Manning, overcame two interceptions in his NFL starting debut to throw for a late score to help the Broncos rally.
Cam Newton ran for a score, passed for another and led the Panthers to within field goal range in the final seconds, but Graham Gano’s 50-yard try was wide left.
During the pregame playing of the national anthem, Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall took a knee. Marshall was a college teammate at Nevada with San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been taking a knee during the anthem to protest racial injustice.
Trailing by 10, the Broncos pulled to within 17-14 when Anderson turned a screen pass from Siemian into a 25-yard touchdown with 14:50 remaining.
On Carolina’s ensuing possession, corner back Chris Harris tipped Newton’s pass intended for Kelvin Benjamin and caught the deflection for the interception as he tumbled to the ground. A roughing penalty on Carolina guard Andrew Norwell gave the Broncos possession at the Panthers’ 23-yard line.
Anderson converted a 4th-and-1 play to give the Broncos a fresh set of downs inside Carolina’s 2-yard line and bulled his way into the end zone on third down to put Denver in front for the first time.
Newton gamely drove the Panthers to the Broncos 18, but his third-down pass for Devin Funchess was knocked down by corner back Aqib Talib, leading to Gano’s 36-yard field goal with 4:21 remaining to pull Carolina to within a point.
After forcing a Denver punt, Carolina got the ball at its 40-yard line with 3:06 left. Denver’s defense induced a false start penalty followed by successive sacks of Newton by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. But an illegal hands to the face penalty against Harris negated a fourth-down incompletion and extended Carolina’s last-ditch drive.
Dominating possession time and twice thwarting Denver drives by forcing turnovers, Carolina took a 17-7 halftime lead.
Newton, capitalizing on a fumble by rookie running back Devontae Booker on his first NFL carry, finished a 71-yard first-quarter drive with a 14-yard pass to Benjamin. Carolina’s first-round pick in 2014, Benjamin was back on the field after missing all of last season with a knee injury.
The Broncos misfired on anther drive ending in an interception of a Siemian pass by linebacker Shaq Thompson before getting on the scoreboard with a 28-yard touchdown run by rookie fullback Andy Janovich.
Newton answered by leading an 18-play, 89-yard drive. He dodged pressure to complete a key third-down pass to tight end Greg Olsen to keep the drive going and finished it with a quarterback sweep from 2 yards, diving over the pylon with the ball in one hand for the touchdown.
Gano added a 44-yard field goal just before the half ended.
Editing by Frank Pingue