This was an old-fashioned football game. It was all defense. The trenches were where the action was, more often than not. Toughness, and smash mouth football. This was a game of buzzwords. None of those buzzwords were “touchdown.”
The Panthers attempted again to involve Christian McCaffrey in as many aspects as possible. It might also be fair to say that McCaffrey got himself involved. He showed his pass-catching ability, as well as what he can do afterwards, with a modest 34 yards receiving. He had one tough run up the middle, but was quiet otherwise offensively.
Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess also showed why they are Newton’s prime targets. Greg Olsen was there as well, but left the game with a broken foot. The biggest takeaway from this game may very well be that injury, though Ed Dickson should step in just fine when called upon. Newton also got banged up in this one, being sacked 6 times, but his shoulder appeared fine. Still, though, Newton’s rhythm is clearly far from where it needs to be. Rust is still the keyword here, and we can only hope it is the correct one.
Despite a game about defense, there were no turnovers in this one, aside from two on downs. Both defenses showed up enough to stop the other’s offense, but not enough to make a game-changing play. Carolina, coming out on the winning end, kept the Bills to a single first down in the first half. They barely let up afterwards. Perhaps most importantly they contained the always dangerous LeSean McCoy for four quarters. If Carolina’s defense can keep up this pace, or something close, they will keep things interesting. The offense will need to come around, though.
The offense’s biggest black eye rests in red zone opportunities. The Panthers were 0-for-3 in red zone trips, and 0-for-2 in goal to go chances. For a team with two 6’4″+ receivers and two bruisers running the ball, the Panthers’ struggles inside the 20 are alarming. (The Carolina offense was 1-for-3 in red zone and 1-for-2 in goal to go in week 1)
Few things are 100% clear after this victory. It could be said that the Panthers, at the very least, did not make the wrong choice in their kicker. It could also be said that this defense truly is rallying from last years disappointment, thus far. Julius Peppers and Mario Addison continue to be forces in the pass rush.
What we cannot say for certain, though, is when, and if, we will get the Cam Newton of old back. Maybe it is the under-utilized rushing attack. Maybe it is the lack of much practice in the offseason. It’s fair to say, though, that the Panthers will not be able to ride their defense alone forever. Next Sunday, for instance, will present a much greater challenge to that defense in Drew Brees.