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Panthers 34 Steelers 9: Panthers end preseason on a high note with quality win

The Panthers finished the preseason on a high note with a 34-9 win over the Steelers.

Baltimore Ravens v Carolina Panthers Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images

The Panthers played most of their starters against the Steelers’ backups for the majority of the first half, and the first half looked like a game where one team played their starters and the other team didn’t. The Panthers’ first team was impressive on both sides of the ball as they built a 17-0 lead at the half against Pittsburgh’s backups. Sam Darnold was 17-of-25 for 162 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, which is a pretty good night’s work. When the offensive line gave him time to work, he made mostly good decisions with the football and protected the offense by avoiding turnovers, and while there were some struggles at times, the offense finally managed to cash in some points instead of coming up empty on every drive.

P.J. Walker was the starting quarterback for the second half and he played the third quarter before handing the reins over to Will Grier for the fourth. The second half was mostly what we expected it to be with the backups from both teams taking over for the starters, and the Panthers continued to play well in the second half, which was nice to see after how bad they looked in the second half of the first two preseason games. Both Walker and Grier led the offense on scoring drives in the second half and both were careful with the football, and neither made any terrible mistakes.

In the battle of the two kickers, it appears that Ryan Santoso did everything he could to earn the job. It will be up to the coaching staff to make the final decision, but I would be surprised if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster after his performance tonight.

The Panthers played well tonight and picked up their first win of the preseason, and now they have some important decisions to make as they prepare to trim the roster to 53 players ahead of the deadline next week.

If you want a detailed quarterly breakdown of the game, you can check it out below.

First quarter

The Panthers started on defense after winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half. The defense got off to a quick start by forcing a three-and-out on Pittsburgh’s first drive. The Panthers’ offense had a nice drive going but couldn’t put points on the board when they failed to convert a fourth-and-2 from the Steelers’ 20-yard line.

The Panthers defense rose to the occasion again and forced a second straight three-and-out. The offense put together another decent drive, but had to settle for a field goal attempt after stalling out. Ryan Santoso drilled a 52-yard field goal off the upright and in to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead with 0:43 left in the quarter.

The Panthers forced a turnover on Pittsburgh’s first play of the drive after Brian Burns picked off a tipped Dwayne Haskins pass to give the Panthers’ offense excellent field position. The Panthers ran one play — a sack of Sam Darnold — before time expired on the quarter with the Panthers leading 3-0 over the Steelers.

Second quarter

The Panthers faced another fourth down situation after back-to-back disappointing plays by the offensive line that forced Darnold into pressure, and Joey Slye came out to attempt a 49-yard field goal. Slye’s attempt was wide right to keep the Panthers’ lead at 3-0 with just under 15 minutes left in the quarter.

The Panthers defense forced another punt after another solid series to give the offense the football again. The offense couldn’t get anything done and had to punt, but took advantage of a Steelers’ muffed return to set up shop at the Pittsburgh 15-yard line. Two plays later, Terrace Marshall Jr. took a screen pass and weaved his way into the end zone to give the Panthers their first touchdown of the night. Santoso’s extra point was good and the Panthers extended their lead to 10-0 with 8:24 left in the quarter.

The defense shut down the Steelers’ offense again and forced another punt. The offense drove down the field with efficiency and cashed in on an 8-yard pass from Darnold to Robby Anderson for the team’s second touchdown of the night. Santoso drilled the extra point to extend the lead to 17-0 with 0:24 left in the quarter.

The Steelers ran one play before time expired on the half with the Panthers up 17-0.

Third quarter

The Panthers started the second half on offense with P.J. Walker at quarterback. After a nice completion to Tommy Tremble and a 20-yard touchdown run by Spencer Brown (followed by an extra point from Santoso), the Panthers extended their lead to 24-0 with 12 minutes left in the quarter. The Panthers made quick work on that drive as they traveled 75 yards in just five plays to extend their lead.

The defense forced another punt to give the ball back to the offense for another drive. The Panthers were unable to pick up any steam on their next drive and had to punt the ball back to the Steelers. Charlton pinned the Steelers at their own 1-yard line with a beautiful punt that Giovanni Ricci downed before it could bounce into the end zone. Unfortunately the Panthers committed a penalty when Jalen Julius went into the end zone and then touched the football first, so the Steelers started at their own 20-yard line instead of their own 1-yard line.

The defense did their job and got the ball back into the hands of the offense, but they were unable to take advantage of possession after a few bad drops from receivers, and the Panthers had to punt the ball back to Pittsburgh. The Steelers started to move the ball well but the Panthers defense clamped down when it mattered the most and forced Pittsburgh to attempt a field goal. The kick was good and the Steelers cut into Carolina’s lead to make the score 24-3 with 1:38 left in the quarter.

The Panthers were able to run a few plays before time expired on the quarter with Carolina holding a 24-3 lead.

Fourth quarter

Will Grier entered the game at quarterback for the fourth quarter. The Panthers ran two plays and then faced a fourth-and-11 and ha d to punt the ball back to the Steelers. Joseph Charlton did his job and pinned the Steelers inside their own 15-yard line. The defense did their part and forced another punt to give the offense another opportunity to put points on the board. The offense did exactly that thanks to a Will Grier 20-yard touchdown scamper to extend the Panthers’ lead to 31-3 with 11:26 left in the game.

The Panthers defense forced another three-and-out thanks to a key sack on third down by Yetur Gross-Matos. The offense couldn’t get anything going on their next possession and had to punt the ball back to the Steelers, and Charlton hit another solid punt to put the Steelers inside their own 15-yard line again. The Panthers defense forced another turnover when Sean Chandler forced a fumble that was recovered by Keith Taylor.

The Panthers offense took advantage of the turnover and took time off the clock while also adding three more points to their lead thanks to a 27-yard field goal from Santoso. With 3:22 left in the game the Panthers held a 34-3 lead over the Steelers.

The defense fell asleep at the wheel on the following drive and allowed the Steelers to drive down the field and put points on the board thanks to a Ray-Ray McCloud touchdown catch and run. The extra point was missed, however, and the Panthers lead was cut to 34-9 with less than a minute left in the game.

The Panthers ran the victory formation to run the time out on the clock to pick up a win in the final game of the preseason to improve their record to 1-2.