The Denver Broncos were blasted in Sunday’s game on the road against the Carolina Panthers. After weeks of the defense being the Broncos’ strong suit while the offense struggled, the war of attrition finally caught up to Denver in Sunday’s brutal 23-10 loss on the road.

More of the same for the Denver Broncos offense against Carolina

In a battle between two of the NFL’s worst third-down offenses, fans in attendance were treated to an early game punt-off. After four straight punts combined to start the game, the Panthers took advantage of Denver on a fake punt on 4th and 1 that generated momentum on a touchdown drive that caught the Broncos in a 7-0 deficit early on.

The Panthers’ offense and quarterback Sam Darnold had nothing but time in the pocket facing very little pressure as he carved up the Broncos’ defense on an 11-play 71-yard drive. Darnold capitalized against Denver’s defense on a 2nd and 8 play, executing a Cover-3 beater for a big gain. Then, Darnold found wide receiver D.J. Moore for a touchdown off of a condensed formation where Moore released across the field with Surtain in coverage. The Broncos’ offense would face the pressure of having to respond to an early deficit after punting on their first two possessions of the game.

Carolina’s defense pressured Russell Wilson and the Broncos’ offense early and often with Brian Burns sacking Wilson for an 11-yard loss, pitting them back for a third and long. Another Broncos punt. However, a Panthers muffed punt recovered by rookie safety Delarrin Turner-Yell gave the Broncos the ball back on the Panthers’ 27-yard line. “Should they kick a field goal now?” was heard in the pressbox after the recovery.

Denver’s offense managed to get inside the 10-yard line but was forced to settle for a Brandon McManus field goal to cut the Panthers’ deficit to 7-3. What’s worth noting is that with 10:11 remaining in the second quarter, the Broncos’ offense had 39 total yards in comparison to Carolina’s 92. 26 of Denver’s 39 yards at this point were all from Kendall Hinton who stepped in at wide receiver with Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler both missing Sunday’s game due to injury.

Trailing by four points in the second quarter, the Broncos’ defense found themselves back on the field after allowing the Panthers to score on their previous possession. Carolina took advantage on the ground with D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard who ripped big gains off the edge in the run game, but Denver’s defense got a stop on third down after Surtain knocked away a Darnold pass attempt to the outside and settled for a field goal that gave Carolina a 10-3 lead with nearly four minutes remaining in the first half.

On the Broncos’ first play after the Panthers’ field goal, Latavius Murray, who has emerged as the lead back for Denver’s offense rattled off a 52-yard scamper that brought Denver near the red zone. On 2nd and 10, Wilson dropped back to pass, but Panthers’ edge rusher Brian Burns came off the outside once again and hit the ball out of Wilson’s hands as he went to throw, popping up into the air as a fumble which was recovered by Panthers’ defense. Anything that could go wrong for the Broncos, had gone wrong to start the game.

What’s even worse was the Broncos’ offensive production in the passing game. With 1:55 remaining in the first half, Russell Wilson had 10 total yards passing, but -1 net yards passing with the two sacks sustained in the first half. Going into halftime, Denver mustered a total of 139 yards of offense with Kendall Hinton and Latavius Murray accounting for nearly all of the offense’s production.

The second half proved to be more of the same for the Broncos as they punted away their opening-half possession relatively quickly. Carolina however found success, marching down the field with ease on a 10-play 72-yard drive as they rallied behind big gains from Hubbard and Foreman and capped off by Sam Darnold punching it in from one yard out to give the Panthers a 17-3 lead.

Denver’s offense was able to get past the sticks on their ensuing drive, but a personal foul penalty on Courtland Sutton backed the Broncos up to a 1st and 21, a constant theme that has impacted them throughout the season. Denver went on to finish the 3rd quarter running only 12 plays for 24 total net yards of offense.

Denver’s performance on Sunday was one of the worst collective performances across the board in recent memory. Bad execution, penalties, and tension summarized how this game went on Sunday including a moment during the game where Mike Purcell seemingly had words toward Wilson after a play.

There appears to be no easy solution to the Broncos’ struggles on offense considering Wilson is a major part of them. Denver now heads into the week set for a showdown with Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, but the bigger question surrounds whether or not head coach Nathaniel Hackett will make it to next week’s game after the team’s worst performance of the season.

The only feel-good moment from this game for Denver came from undrafted rookie wide receiver Brandon Johnson catching his first career touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Outside of that, the end result was the same as the Broncos lose a disappointing one on the road.

Denver drops to 3-8 on the year with a very tough schedule remaining featuring opponents like the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, and the Ravens next week.

Cody Roark is Mile High Sports lead reporter covering the Denver Broncos — Cody covers every practice, every home and away game plus community events related to the organization. He also co-hosts The Afternoon Drive with Aniello Piro on Mile High Sports Radio and is the host of the Locked On Broncos podcast. You can follow Cody on Twitter and Instagram @CodyRoarkNFL.