CHARLOTTE – **On the Panthers' first series of the game, quarterback Cam Newton dropped back on third down and saw nothing but linebacker Von Miller charging at him.
Earlier in the week, Miller talked about doing Newton's Superman celebration if he were able to get to the quarterback. Five plays into the game, he was doing just that.
Miller sacked Newton for a 6-yard loss and set the tone for a game in which the Broncos' pass rush made itself at home in the Panthers' backfield.
"It was great, especially to get it that early and break the anticipation," Miller said. "You can talk about something and there's so much anticipation. To go out there and get it done pretty quick, I think that's great. Especially for our defense. We've got a lot of crazy guys on defense. When you can go out and show some excitement early, that really got us going."
Denver sacked Newton a season-high seven times, which represents the most for the club since the 2003 season. Miller's first-quarter sack gave him 10 on the season, becoming one of just 11 players to reach double-digit sacks totals in each of his first two years.
Miller finished second on the team with six tackles – four of which were behind the line of scrimmage – and one forced fumble.
"I played him in the Pro Bowl," said Miller, who was selected No. 2 overall by the Broncos in the 2011 darft – one spot behind Newton. "I've seen how big he is. Everything about Super Cam, I think we were prepared on it. He can run the ball pretty good, he can throw the ball pretty good, he can shed defenders and he makes great decisions. I think he showed that today, but we were able to make a couple more plays and come out with the win."
Even when the rushers couldn't bring down Newton, they affected his comfort level in the pocket. The second-year quarterback was hit an additional seven times during the game, hampering his ability to throw accurate passes.
The secondary capitalized on the pass rush with seven pass breakups, including Tony Carter's 40-yard interception return for a touchdown – a play in which Miller's pressure forced Newton to underthrow the intended target.
"Definitely, when the pass rush is on, it makes it a lot easier in the secondary," Carter said. "The quarterback has a play clock in his head and the DBs have a play clock in their mind. And we know once it hits a certain time, either that ball's got to come out or we're getting a sack. Glad to have those guys on my team."
Despite losing Pro-Bowl defensive end Elvis Dumemrvil to a shoulder injury at the end of the first quarter, defensive end Robert Ayers stepped in and the Broncos front four kept on coming.
Pressure up front and tight coverage from the secondary had the Panthers on their heels all game. Carolina's leading receiver entering the game, Steve Smith, was held to just one catch for 19 yards, despite being targeted seven times.
"Our guys up front, Von, he was on a mission, and when we lost Elvis, Robert Ayers came in and did the same thing," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "It's what I expect from those guys and it doesn't surprise me that we did that."
The front line and secondary came together to complement one other on the Broncos' punctuation mark, a fourth-quarter safety that gave Denver a 29-7 lead.
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio dialed up pressure and safety Mike Adams ended up winning the race to the quarterback in the end zone for his fifth career sack and first since the 2010 season.
"I think it started in practice," Miller said of the team's defensive effort. "We had a great week of preparation, just like the weeks before. It was hard to get some practice against the type of offense they can run, but overall I think we did pretty well this week and I think it showed in the game."
After earning the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year Award a year ago, Miller has emerged as an every-down linebacker who can do more than just rush the passer.
He now leads the NFL with 21 tackles for a loss on the season – an average of more than two per game.
On the season, he has made 39 tackles with more than half coming for losses.
Four of Miller's six tackles on Sunday came behind the line of scrimmage and resulted in a total loss of 24 yards for the Panthers.
"He was in beast mode today," said defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who finished with a career-best two sacks in the win. "He can be one of the best linebackers to play the game. He's a good guy, a good player, explosive -- all of the above."
A week after Miller set a career-high with a hat trick of sacks against another fellow 2011 draft pick, the Panthers tried anything they could to slow down the sensational sophomore.
None of it worked against the player that has wreaked havoc on opposing offensive coaches all season long.
"To be real honest with you, I kind of like Von matched up with anybody," Head Coach John Fox said. "So I wouldn't be critical of how they tried to do it. A lot of people have tried different things and he's pretty special."