CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Sam Darnold threw for a touchdown and recovered his own fumble for another score in his first game of the season, helping the Carolina Panthers beat the Denver Broncos 23-10 on Sunday.
Making his first start since Week 18 last year, Darnold completed 11 of 19 passes for 164 yards without a turnover. He is the third QB to start this season for the Panthers (4-8), joining Baker Mayfield and P.J. Walker.
Darnold got help from D’Onta Foreman, who ran for 113 yards on 24 carries, and receiver D.J. Moore, who broke out of a midseason slump with four catches for 103 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown.
The Panthers limited Russell Wilson to 19 of 35 passing for 142 yards and sacked him three times, sending the Broncos (3-8) to their seventh loss in eight games. Pro Bowl defensive end Brian Burns had two sacks of Wilson, including a forced fumble, and he tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage to end another drive.
The Panthers used the running game to set up play-action passes, including on Darnold’s TD toss to Moore, which gave Carolina a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Panthers led 10-3 at the half when Darnold drove the Panthers to the Broncos’ doorstep and scored an unusual 1-yard touchdown.
After faking a handoff from the 2, Darnold made a move toward the end zone and was stripped of the ball. But the QB alertly picked up the ball and then rolled into the end zone untouched for a 17-3 lead.
The Panthers put the game away early in the fourth quarter when Darnold hit Moore in stride on a 52-yard bomb along the right sideline, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro.
Denver came in with the worst scoring offense in the league and didn’t find the end zone until a 1-yard TD pass by Wilson with 3:24 left in the game, a performance sure to turn up the heat even more on embattled first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett. Latavius Murray ran for 92 yards for the Broncos.
The Broncos and Panthers came in as the league’s worst two teams at converting third downs and nothing changed there. Carolina was 2 of 12 on third down and Denver was 4 of 14.
Panthers: Safety Xavier Woods left with a knee injury.
Broncos: At Baltimore on Sunday.
Panthers: After a bye, visit Seattle on Dec. 11.