Carolina's first possession Sunday ended when Denver linebacker Von Miller, spying on Cam Newton, rolled the dice and charged Newton as he rolled out of the pocket. Miller's gamble paid off -- he tripped Newton up for a sack, then mimicked Newton's "Superman" celebration.
It was an ominous sign of things to come for the Panthers.
Miller absolutely terrorized Carolina and its superstar quarterback on Sunday. He finished with six tackles, that early sack and a forced fumble (Carolina retained possession), but the stats fail to tell the whole story. All day, Miller found himself around the ball, playing a huge part in helping the Broncos force two turnovers and sack Newton seven times.
The No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft, taken one spot after Newton, Miller has put together a stellar second season. His sack gave him 10 for the year, and he continues to be the leader of an improving Denver defense.
While J.J. Watt has battled his way into the NFL's MVP discussion and Chicago's Charles Tillman has secured a spot in the Defensive Player of the Year race, Miller's efforts in helping Denver to first place in the AFC West cannot be overlooked.
Last week alone, Miller recorded three sacks and four more QB hits. He also had 25 QB hurries over Denver's first eight games, a number he certainly added to emphatically on Sunday.
That Denver used Miller to spy on Newton early and throughout the game Sunday gives you some indication just what type of athlete Miller is. He had no problems keeping the physical, athletic Newton in his sights throughout Sunday's contest.
The Broncos have more or less perfected how to utilize Miller, too, sliding him all over their formations to take advantage of both his pass-rushing and pure tackling abilities.