Final

Broncos 10

(8-6, 4-3 away)

Panthers 30

(11-3, 8-0 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:15 PM ET, December 14, 2008

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC 

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 10 0 0 010
CAR 10 10 7 330

Top Performers

Passing: J. Delhomme (CAR) - 253 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: D. Williams (CAR) - 12 CAR, 88 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: S. Smith (CAR) - 9 REC, 165 YDS, 1 TD

Smith, Williams power Panthers to perfect home record

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson found out last week he needed a heart transplant, coach John Fox asked his boss what the players could do to help.

The answer: They're already doing it.

Fast Facts

• The Panthers finished 8-0 at home for the first time since 1996.

• Carolina improved to 4-0 vs. AFC teams this season.

• Rookie running back Jonathan Stewart scored his ninth rushing touchdown of the season, setting a franchise record.

• The Broncos lost for the first time this season against the NFC and first time vs. the Panthers in three all-time meetings.

-- ESPN research

• Rapid Reaction

Fox relayed the message, and his players continued their good work Sunday -- in front of their ailing owner -- in a 30-10 win over the Denver Broncos.

As he awaits a donor heart, Richardson checked out of the hospital, sat in his customary seat in his end zone suite, and watched the Panthers (11-3) clinch at least a tie for the NFC South title, improve to 8-0 at home and prevent the Broncos (8-6) from clinching the AFC West.

"That's what we want to do for him: keep winning games and try to bring him something special," defensive end Julius Peppers said.

Players didn't know Richardson -- the first ex-NFL player to own a team since George Halas -- was at the game until he was shown on the video board in the second half.

"I was one of the people on the sidelines clapping because I didn't know he was here," running back DeAngelo Williams said. "I saw his blanket kind of falling down, and his wife pulled it up. That was kind of cute. To see him up there, after what he's been through, it just shows his dedication to the team. He's not only an owner -- he's a friend and he's family."

Richardson watched the emerging Williams have another big day, including a cut back 56-yard touchdown run on Carolina's first possession of the second half to put it away. Steve Smith torched Broncos rookie cornerback Josh Barrett, catching nine passes for 165 yards and a touchdown, and the Panthers' defense shut down Jay Cutler and the league's second-ranked offense.

"They pressured us a little bit," said Cutler, who threw for 172 yards and one touchdown and was fortunate to have only one interception. "We weren't able to run the ball as well as we wanted to."

Tatum Bell, who was selling cell phones last month, started at tailback for the banged-up Broncos and had 43 yards on seven carries. P.J. Pope rushed for 51 yards and caught his first career touchdown on Denver's first possession, but a once promising day turned sour.

Panthers Broncos

NFL.com Video

Watch highlights from the Carolina Panthers' 30-10 win over the Denver Broncos.

Denver went through pregame warmups perhaps thinking it would clinch the AFC West midway through the first quarter, when Kansas City finished off a win over San Diego in an early game.

Instead, the Chiefs blew a 21-3 third-quarter lead. The Chargers got the winning TD as Cutler was shredding Carolina's secondary on the opening drive that ended with his 7-yard pass Pope.

"I was aware of what happened," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "Our team wasn't."

The Broncos will get another chance to clinch the division next week at home against Buffalo.

"We need to win and take care of business as fast as possible," said cornerback Dre' Bly. "Time is running out. We don't want to go into the last game with the Chargers."

With Champ Bailey (groin) and Marlon McCree (ankle) out, Denver's thin secondary couldn't keep up with Smith.

He caught three passes for 66 yards on Carolina's first possession, ending with a 15-yard catch-and-run TD off a big block from fellow receiver Muhsin Muhammad.

The Panthers took their first lead on Jonathan Stewart's 2-yard run midway through the second quarter -- with Smith's 38-yard grab the key play of the drive -- then got a gift to take a 20-10 halftime lead.

Instead of running out the clock on second-and-10 from its own 18 in the closing seconds, Denver called a timeout. Selvin Young fumbled on the next play, Carolina's Tyler Brayton recovered, and John Kasay kicked a 44-yard field goal as time expired.

Williams' long TD run was the biggest play for Carolina's two-headed running game. While Williams and Stewart (140 combined yards) weren't as impressive as six days earlier when they rushed for 301 yards and four touchdowns against Tampa Bay, it was enough to avoid any letdown a week before the Panthers visit the New York Giants with perhaps the No. 1 seed in the NFC on the line.

That would be another way to honor their owner.

"I thought it was awesome. Just to see him up there in his box and know that he was here to enjoy another undefeated season," Muhammad said. "My first year as a rookie we went undefeated at home in '96 and you know that was a special year, went to the NFC championship game. Now to be able to have him watching again and here to see that undefeated season at home again, that's a real special moment."

Game notes


Panthers RG Keydrick Vincent (groin) was replaced by Jeremy Bridges in the fourth quarter. It was Bridges' first game since being arrested on two counts of misdemeanor assault last week. ... Panthers DT Maake Kemoeatu (ankle) left in the third quarter. ... The Broncos allowed three sacks after going three straight games without one.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
Denver
Carolina
1st Downs1518
3rd down efficiency
6-134-10
4th down efficiency
0-00-0
Total Yards279400
Yards per play4.77.1
Total Drives01
Passing158253
Comp-Att
21-3317-26
Yards per pass
4.89.7
Interceptions thrown
11
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-140-0
Rushing121147
Rushing Attempts
2330
Yards per rush
5.34.9
Penalties3-255-35
Turnovers21
Fumbles lost
10
Interceptions thrown
11
Possession29:1030:50

Passing Leaders

DENC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Cutler21/331725.2113-14
CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Delhomme17/262539.7110-0

Rushing Leaders

DENCARYDSAVGTDLG
Pope7517.3024
Bell7436.1016
CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Williams12887.3156
Stewart16523.3110

Receiving Leaders

DENRECYDSAVGTDLG
Royal6488.0013
Marshall5489.6019
CARRECYDSAVGTDLG
Smith916518.3138
Muhammad47017.5027

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERDENCAR
TD10:58P.J. Pope 7 Yd Pass From Jay Cutler (Matt Prater Kick) 70
TD08:21Steve Smith 15 Yd Pass From Jake Delhomme (John Kasay Kick) 77
FG03:37Matt Prater 43 Yd 107
FG00:10John Kasay 39 Yd 1010
SECOND QUARTERDENCAR
TD06:29Jonathan Stewart 2 Yd Run (John Kasay Kick) 1017
FG00:00John Kasay 44 Yd 1020
THIRD QUARTERDENCAR
TD12:49Deangelo Williams 56 Yd Run (John Kasay Kick) 1027
FOURTH QUARTERDENCAR
FG11:22John Kasay 42 Yd 1030