What’s Poppin’, Panthers?: Preseason Week 2 vs. Tennessee
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and his dab were most definitely an item before last season’s Week 10 matchup with the Tennessee Titans. But it was not until the 2015 MVP and his squad hit Nissan Stadium that the flamboyant duo became one of America’s most talked-about power couples.
Thanks to the ire of the Titans’ linebacking corps and a letter from a salty Nashville mother, Newton and that dab were making all the headlines. They were bigger than Bradgelina. They were bigger than POTUS and FLOTUS. And they were bigger than Jay-Z and Beyonce, even without a fresh serving of lemonade.
Since then, however, Newton has gone on record claiming that him and his dab have officially called it quits. Newton is now in the open market for a new celebration while the dab is continuing to make its promiscuous rounds through sports and pop culture, which is actually one of many rumored reasons for the unfortunate breakup.
But there was a game to be played on Saturday afternoon, regardless of Newton’s likely emotions in revisiting a venue that carries so many touching memories of that unforgettable relationship. And, without further ado, here’s what was poppin’ and what was floppin’ for him and the Panthers in their 26-16 victory over the Titans.
- WR Ted Ginn Jr.: Ginn had just one reception on Saturday, but it was all he needed. The 10th-year veteran, who still possesses enough gas in his jets to be considered one of the NFL’s premier speedsters, torched the Tennessee defense for a 61-yard touchdown two minutes and 12 seconds into the contest. Ginn may not sniff 10 end zone visits like he did last year with the return of Kelvin Benjamin and progression of Devin Funchess. He should, though, continue to be a valuable presence in the deep game.
- CB Bené Benwikere: Although head coach Ron Rivera did acknowledge Benwikere would receive a fair shot to start on the outside a few months ago, the third-year corner is proving that his best spot remains in the slot. “Big Play Bené” picked off Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota on their first drive, halting a march that ended up deep in Carolina territory. Rookie and likely No. 1 cornerback James Bradberry also had a nice showing himself, looking reliable in both passing and rushing situations throughout his time on the field.
- QB Cam Newton: Rivera stated prior to the game that he wanted to see “three good drives” by his first-team offense. He may or may not have gotten that, but he did see a fine performance from his starting quarterback. Newton completed eighth of his 12 attempts for 162 yards and that aforementioned score to Ginn.
- Panthers’ official Twitter account: After a lightning scare just before the conclusion of the third quarter, officials decided to briefly delay the game for the sake of fan safety. And during that delay, the best official team Twitter account in all of sports proved exactly why it is the best official team Twitter account in all of sports by throwing out a Tic-Tac-Toe challenge to the Titans. Remarkable.
- WR Brenton Bersin: Yes, Bersin did not even dress for this one due to the rib shot he took last week in Baltimore. But he also did not lose any ground in the wideout race, as much of Carolina’s pass catchers failed to make a statement. As we head down the stretch into the last two preseason games, Bersin and Damiere Byrd (three catches, 36 yards vs. Tennessee) are sticking as the favorites to land what could be the fifth and sixth receiver spots on the 53-man roster.
- CB Daryl Worley: Two-thirds of “The Three Amigos” had a couple of fine afternoons in Nashville. Bradberry, as mentioned, was very good and Zack Sanchez chalked up a nifty interception off an assist from linebacker A.J. Klein. That third Amigo, unfortunately, was absolutely abused by the Titans offense. Worley was beaten consistently in pass coverage, mostly at the hands of fellow rookie and wide receiver Tajae Sharpe. First-year bumps, of course, come with the territory—especially at that position. He’ll just have to put this day behind him and re-soldify his stake as the team’s No. 2 cornerback.
- Running backs: Carolina’s backfield followed up their dreadful performance against the Ravens last Thursday with another dreadful performance this time around. The duo of Cameron Artis-Payne and Brandon Wegher, who may be fighting one another for the third running back jersey, combined for 34 yards on 11 carries. The only bright side, despite his 10 yards on his three attempts, was Jonathan Stewart who walked away without an injury.
- Titans’ broadcast graphics: It’s been five years since the Panthers revamped their logo. Five years. That’s longer than a presidential term. So someone let the graphics folks over in Tennessee know what’s up.