What a first week it was for the Carolina Panthers. It was a long time coming but we finally saw some offense that generated three scores. The defense was aggressive and special teams was...well, not so special on one punt. Its been awhile since many of us have taken so many positives after being on the losing end of a ballgame. But given the kind of year we were subjected to last year, it was a bit of fresh air. After the jump, I will review the positive things as well as the negative aspects that was the opening game of the 2011 season.
What went right? Well, we finally had a QB show up and put on a show. Cam was poised and consistent all night. Newton's line was 24/37 422 yards 2 TDs, 1 INT and 1 rushing TD. I've watched alot of Panthers football over the past sixteen years and I can't recall a quarterback who took charge of the game the way Newton did. I am really excited about his initial success however, we must not get ahead of ourselves. Cam picked on Patrick Peterson on several occassions but one should surmise this may be in part to his knowledge of Peterson's style of play at LSU. Newton led Auburn past LSU in route to a national title.
Additionally, early success doesn't always set the stage for future performances. Remember, there was a young, strong quarterback named Ryan Leaf who started out hot but then fizzled and the Chargers were basically screwed during his rookie season. His career was very short lived. I doubt this will happen to Cam because unlike Leaf, he knows how to be successful and lead a team to victory.
One more thing before moving on to the next item...how awesome was it to see another player other than Steve Smith celebrate a touchdown? I hope to see more of that in the future albeit the unsportsmanlike penalties. Speaking of Steve Smith, he had a game that we haven't seen from him in awhile. Smitty caught eight balls for 178 yards and two scores. This was vintage 89. Hopefully, the Newton-Smitty Connection provides more big plays throughout the year.
The defense looked good and even though Beason left early with an achilles injury, I saw the unit looking very aggressive and putting alot of pressure on Kevin Kolb. Chris Gamble was awesome keeping Larry Fitzgerald in check (though on a personal note Fitz's lack of production sure hurt my fantasy team...but that's the nature of the game). The only drawback about the defense was giving up big gains to Beanie Wells. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Ouch!
There are really only two things to discuss here. The special teams blunder that allowed Patrick Peterson to score the eventual game winning touchdown and the offensive line getting overmatched and giving up four sacks.
Maybe I need to review the tape but I could have sworn there were four Panthers surrounding Peterson before he caught the punt and took it back to the house for six. I'm sure that kick coverage will be addressed during this week in practice as it proved to be the difference on the scoreboard.
There were several plays throughout the game where Newton was hurried, knocked down or sacked. The O-line at times appeared to be overmatched by the blitzing Cardinal defense and despite Cam's best efforts was unable to get away. I feel the line needs to work on making corrections and find a way to maintain their blocks without drawing holding penalites. Overall, I was really excited about this game.
There will be mountains to climb and the Panthers will find themselves in bad spots at certain points in the season but I really feel this is a team on the rise. I really feel they can hold their own against the big boys in the league. Another positive note to take to heart, the Panthers are tied with its division foes at 0-1.