We saw a little good, a little bad, and a whole lot of ugly in the Panthers first game against the Chicago Bears.
Oh yeah, it was game one of the preseason.
But the Panthers gave its fans a lot of hope for the upcoming year.
Opening against a familiar foe in the Chicago Bears, the Panthers started their preseason on the right foot, albeit in a sloppy game. Both teams totaled 7 turnovers, typical of preseason. Nevertheless, QB Cam Newton had an early touchdown pass; RB Kenjon Barner, touchdown run; CB Josh Norman, two interceptions, with one for a touchdown to lead the Panthers to a 24-17 victory.
Newton had an up and down performance over three drives. On the first drive, he hit WR Steve Smith on a 10 yard strike, then followed it up with broken up pass to TE Greg Olsen. After a Norman interception, Newton began the second drive on the Bears 18 yard line, and ended with a patient, easy 3-yard TD pass to WR Brandon LaFell. Coach Ron Rivera decided to keep him in for one more drive, but it ended in disaster: Newton stared down Olsen and was intercepted by rookie LB Jon Bostic for a touchdown. He finished with 3 completions on 6 attempts, for 16 yards and 1 TD.
The defense may have been the bigger story, however.
Norman had an incredible night, taking the first pass from Bears QB Jay Cutler into a interception. He stayed on fire the rest of the night, racking up two tackles and an interception for a touchdown on third-string QB Matt Blanchard.
As great as Norman was, the defensive line was even better. The whole defense had 7 sacks on the night, and the line alone accumulated 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and numerous pressures. DE Charles Johnson and DE Greg Hardy picked up where they left off, constantly pressuring Jay Cutler. The rookie defensive duo also stood out, as DT Star Lotulelei and DT Kawann Short were constantly in the backfield, with the later notching half a sack.
The role players had a nice showing as well. Almost forgotten WR David Gettis led the wide receivers with 3 receptions for 56 yards, training camp sensation WR Armanti Edwards had 2 key catches for 38 yards, and backup TE Brandon Williams had a magnificent seam route catch for 24 yards to bring the team to the red zone. On the defensive side, the defensive ends had a field day: DE Mario Addison added two tackles, a sack and forced fumble, and DE Craig Roh tallied 2 tackles and a sack. LB Anderson Russell also joined the turnover party with a forced fumble of his own.
The play was not all rosy, as some Panthers had their struggles tonight. Although rookie RB Kenjon Barner was impressive as a lead back with his 5 yard touchdown, he also had 2 fumbles. (One was credited to QB Jimmy Clausen.) QB Derek Anderson and WR Ted Ginn just had an off night together. Though Anderson targeted Ginn 7 times, they only connected once for 17 yards. And lastly, the Byron Bell and Bruce Campbell project looked shaky at best, as both were frequently beat by pass rushers.
Nevertheless, the Panthers start the preseason 1-0, with a lot ot build on.
The Panthers travel to Philadelphia to face Coach Chip Kelly and his uptempo offense next Thursday, 7:30 EDT.
Josh Norman: 2 INTs, 2 tackles, 1 TD
Players that Stood Out
Tauren Poole, DeAngelo Williams, David Gettis, Armanti Edwards, Brandon Williams, Joe Adams, Josh Norman, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, Anderson Russell, Mario Addison, Louis Nzegwu, Craig Roh, Graham Gano
Players that Struggled
Kenjon Barner, Bruce Campbell, Byron Bell, Derek Anderson, Ted Ginn