The Panthers were off Saturday night against against the Miami Dolphins. You could see it right away when Luke Kuechly missed a routine tackle during Miami's opening drive. The Panthers were off. The single missed tackle alone didn’t indicate how bad it would be, but it sure did intimate that something was wrong. The Panthers defense would make a few good plays, like the Kony Ealy strip, and then they missed on some big plays, like the Josh Norman missed tackle where Lamar Miller broke for 36 yds on what should have been a original gain.
Things weren’t clicking on offensive either. For the second straight week, Cam Newton and the Panthers went 3 and out in their first possession. This week, Carolina one upped last week’s start by going 3 and out on their second possession as well. The first team never did get it together. Characterized by a non-existent running game, numerous dropped passes, missed opportunities, and some untimely penalties, Carolina’s offense looked bad. The one bright spot was Carolina's pass protection, which held solidly against a stout Miami defensive front.
The dumpster flames soared high to begin the 2nd quarter, when Cam Newton threw what appeared a pick-6. Fortunately, Miami’s Jamar Taylor stepped out on the 3-yd line. Miami pressed harder on Carolina’s jugular when Dolphin running back, Lamar Miller, dove to the pillion. Turning purple and eyes bulging, Carolina gulped for air as Miami challenged that Miller had scored. He had been marked down on the 1 yd line. Not only did Miller not get it, but Rivera pointed out he had fumbled before crossing the plane. It was ruled a touchback. Avoiding a suffocating 21-point deficit, Carolina flailed for survival. Teddy William’s interception with a minute 1:10 left allowed a third field desperate field goal to pull within four points. (14-9)
The bleeding may have slowed, but the beating wasn’t over. Miami scored on its first offensive possession with a bruising 6:12s, 65-yard touchdown drive.
The Panthers were beaten badly, but not beaten.
Joe Webb, Brandon Wegher, and the Panthers 3rd team defense fought back viciously in the 4th. Wegher found the end zone twice, Damiere Byrd scored, and Webb tied it up with a 2-pt conversion. The Panthers found themselves strangely up seven after defensive tackle, Terry Redden, made a one-handed interception and rumbled to Miami’s 4-yd line to set up Wegher’s second touchdown.
Miami immediately responded with a 65-yd touchdown bomb to tight-end Gerell Robinson. Marcus Ball fortunately broke up the two point conversion to preserve the Panthers 31-30 victory.
This game was a tale of two halves, and really Carolina's preseason has been a tale of two teams. For the second week, Carolina was beaten up early. For the second week, Joe Webb led guys hoping just to make the team to a 4th quarter comeback. Carolina is 2-0 in the preseason. Oddly, the Panthers first team has played like an 0-2 team, while the second and third team guys are 2-0. Ironically, Miami’s starters looked like a team that should be 2-0. The Dolphins are 0-2, however.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
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