It wasn’t pretty. None the less, the Panthers left Jacksonville Sunday with a win. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from Carolina’s season opener.
The Good: The Defense
The Panthers’ secondary held Blake Bortles to only 183 yards passing, including finding the endzone on a pick-six. After defensive leader Luke Kuechly left the game in the 2nd quarter with a concussion, Josh Norman and the rest of the defense stepped up. The one area that many thought was one of the Panthers’ weakest, became one of their strongest. Carolina held Jacksonville scoreless and to only 75 yards in the second half.
“That was huge,” Rivera said of the way the defense responded. “That’s what has to happen. You can’t sit there and go, ‘Oh, woe is me.’
“Let’s go. Next man is up. Let’s do it better.”
The play of the defense, without Kuechly, will be one the few bright spots Rivera and company can hang their hat on heading into Sunday’s match-up against the Texans.
The Bad: The Offense
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— Sepp Trapper (@Trap_Jesus) September 13, 2015
It’s the first game of the year, so I didn’t expect Carolina to look perfect, but the offense has several things they should be worried about. The Panthers’ receiver woes heading into the season have been well documented. Cam Newton simply doesn’t have the weapons he should, but neither he nor Carolina have expressed much worry about it. After Sunday they may. Tedd Ginn Jr. and rookie Devin Funchess dropped two touchdown passes and despite Cotchery’s score and Ginn’s 37-yard recception, Carolina’s receivers left much to be desired. Ron Rivera raved about left tackle Michael Oher’s play during training camp and the preseason, but Newton was sacked and rushed twice on his watch. I’m not ready to write Oher off as Bell 2.0, but his play will have to improve tremendously as the season progresses, things will only get tougher from here. The Ugly: Injuries
Luke Kuechly went down in the second quarter with a head injury and has been placed in the league’s concussion protocol. His status for Sunday in unknown.
Rookie offensive tackle Darly Williams went out with a knee injury. The initial prognosis is a sprained right knee. He’s scheduled for a MRI today.
These two injuries can significantly impact Carolina if they extend into the coming weeks.
The Bottom Line:
The Panthers left Jacksonville with a win, but it wasn’t the kind of victory that makes you optimistic for the remainder of the season. Rivera and company will have to address the concerns at wide receiver, Michael Oher will have to improve at protecting Newton’s blindside and the defense will have to continue to create turnovers to help with scoring deficiencies.
The Panthers will take on JJ Watt and company Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.