CHARLOTTE --** With a chance to get his team back in the game late in the third quarter, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton took a shotgun snap, ready to take off on a designed run.
Before he could even take a step forward, linebacker Von Miller sent the 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback flying onto his back for a 4-yard loss, forcing a punt.
Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, it was that type of defensive effort that made sure a potent Panthers offense never got rolling in a 36-14 Broncos victory, Denver's fourth in a row.
"It's an explosive offense, you have a pretty good stable of backs there, you have a quarterback that has unique abilities, so we knew it was going to be tough coming in," said Head Coach John Fox, who coached in Carolina for nine seasons. "I thought all-in-all our defensive staff did a terrific job."
The defense didn't allow the Panthers to convert a single one of their 12 third downs, sacked Newton seven times, picked him twice and held Carolina to just 250 total yards. The unit forced seven three-and-outs, including four drives in which the Panthers actually lost yardage.
"Our defense was outstanding today," said quarterback Peyton Manning, who tied Dan Marino with his 420th touchdown pass and 147th career win Sunday. "It was fun to watch."
Most importantly, the defense accounted for two scores of its own, thanks to a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Tony Carter and a safety on a sack by safety Mike Adams.
"I think there was definitely a heightened urgency," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "Their quarterback is a great player. When their quarterback is one of their better players, you have to get after him, and we definitely did that."
Meanwhile, Denver's special teams held up its end of the bargain, as well.
Returner Trindon Holliday averaged more than 15 yards per punt return, giving the Broncos excellent field position all afternoon. Denver started nine drives at its own 30-yard line or better, including four that started past the 40.
Holliday also found the end zone himself, racing 76 yards down the sideline for his second return touchdown of the year.
"It feels great to be able to come back and do it back-to-back games," Holliday said. "My guys did a great job blocking for me. I just caught the ball, saw the guys blocking for me to the right, saw the hole and just hit it."
As Denver found so many alternative ways to score, the offense chipped in just two touchdowns in the rout -- a 10-yard pass from Manning to wide receiver Brandon Stokley on a misdirection play in the first quarter and a 5-yard run by Ronnie Hillman late in the fourth.
Two field goals courtesy of Matt Prater closed out the scoring.
"We don't rely on just one guy, or offense or defense or special teams -- touchdowns can come from anywhere," Miller said. "You never know how Sunday's going to go, you've just got to go out there and play football. That's what we did."
Carolina's points came on the club's second drive -- a 4-yard pass from Newton to tight end Greg Olsen -- and second-to-last drive -- a 5-yard Newton-to-Olsen touchdown.
The win moved the Broncos to 6-3 and earned Fox a game ball in the locker room afterward.
"Any time a player or coach comes back to a place that they used to work, you want to win for that person," Stokley said. "I think everybody in the locker room really wanted to win for Coach and the other coaches that were here. So it was nice to do that."