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Panthers vs. Seahawks: A Star is Born, and Other Musings from Bank of America Stadium

Being a fan from Los Angeles, my first trip to Bank of America Stadium has come and gone. I enjoyed every minute celebrating with Panthers fans, even if it ended in a terrible loss. Here is my in-stadium analysis.

The diminutive QB Russell Wilson and his Seahawks win round 2 over Cam Newton and the Panthers.
The diminutive QB Russell Wilson and his Seahawks win round 2 over Cam Newton and the Panthers.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I have not been able to see the tape or video highlights yet, so my observations are just upon first glance and based on what I saw live. I will break this up into two parts: five game comments, and five miscellaneous notes from the stadium.

Game analysis

1) (Overused pun alert.) A Star is born. Every time the Panthers stuffed a run play, it seems like Star Lotulelei’s name was always being called. The crowd went nuts every time the announcer would say his name for a tackle. Safe to say Panthers made the right choice at the right time for the defense's biggest weakness. Marshawn Lynch, save for the final drives, really was a non-factor the whole game, and Lotulelei was a big reason why.

2) Russell Wilson killed Panthers defense, even when running for his life. Especially in the first half, the Panthers front 7 had incredible pressure on Wilson. The tone was set from the opening drive, where they almost sacked him for a safety. The pressure continued the rest of the game, even resulting in an intentional grounding. But no matter how much they were in his face, Wilson showed why he is one of the "slippery-est" quarterbacks in the league. He sliced and diced underneath all game, resulting in many expletives from Panthers fans in the stands.

3) Cam Newton looked good, but could have looked better. With this new Mike Shula run offense, Newton looked calm and composed. It also helped having an offensive line that gave him plenty of time. Although I have not charted his play, it appeared that when he had the time in the pocket, he was unstoppable. Despite his 97+ QB rating, he was badly misused. He wins on deep passes, has speedsters in Steve Smith and Ted Ginn, Jr., and he only took one shot downfield. (It was incomplete, but it was nullified by a penalty.) I understand being conservative, but that does not mean you shoot yourself in the foot by not using your best weapons.

4) Panthers could not convert obvious run plays. Let us forget about 4th down and short for a second. As I have mentioned during the preseason, the Panthers have done terribly on designed short run plays. It got even worse when they could not even convert when they had a 2nd down and 2. This could be a problem all year. They did seem to find a solution later in the game, as Newton converted a short distance down. However, he cannot do it all.

5) Here are some final quick thoughts. Jon Beason looked a step slow, as he was chasing from behind a few times. Mike Tolbert also looked slow, especially when they called his number for run pays. The weak defensive end depth was noticeable once Frank Alexander was ejected and the defense looked tired afterward. Speaking of Alexander, the fans had enough with the stupid penalties; boos rained down after Alexander and Armond Smith. Fan reaction was conflicted on Greg Olsen’s drops - they were angry, but were patient with him. Saw very little opening of the playbook we were promised; we got a few playaction calls, some Pistol, and even less read option.

Stadium and crowd observations

6) Weather was hot and humid, especially when the clouds were not covering us. Interesting to note that Seattle’s bench had guys on their staff hold up shades for the offensive and defensive lines when they were off the field. The Panthers had no shade all game. Not sure why.

7) Player introductions were a blast to see live. Missed the offense entrance, but the defense was spectacular. Loudest cheers: Luke Kuechly, Greg Hardy, and Star Lotulelei.

8) Great to see a full stadium and an extension of the sellout streak. Mind you, I am from Southern California, so fans showing up late and an empty San Diego stadium is par for the course. It was crowded and full inside.

9) Seahawks fans were good, for the most part. With Wilson playing for North Carolina State, there was not a lot of hate for the Seattle QB. His jersey was clearly the most popular among Seahawks fans, so it was hard for Panthers fans to get mad at them. However, once the game ended, they annoyed us with constant Seahawks chants down the ramp and in the stadium. I was surprised to see so many Seahawks fans, and I do not want to see them again.

10) Panthers fans are awesome. I cannot thank the city of Charlotte and Panthers fans enough for their incredible warmth hosting this long distance fan. For all the tweets, all the love, all the high-fives, all the cheers, I am grateful. I wish I could only be so fortunate to watch this amazing team live all season, but alas, I will just cheer them on from across the country. Thanks for everything!

Quotes overheard

"Panthers fans are nice. At least we do not have to worry about being stabbed." -Seahawks fan on my flight

"Star Lotulelei is nothing special. Can't believe we spent a early 1st round pick on him." -My waiter, the night before the game

"I love Russell Wilson!" -Panthers fans, frequently throughout my trip

"WHAT?!" -Panthers fans, seemingly in unison after every penalty call

"I can't believe Olsen is dropping all these passes. And he is the only Panther I am cheering for." -Seahawks fan

"[The Panthers] should fire [Ron] Rivera already." -Seahawks fan, in the first (!) quarter