Carolina’s defense really couldn’t have played much worse today. With Drew Brees out and Luke McCown behind one of the league’s worst offensive line, most thought the defense would be the hero’s this week. Certainly, few thought that it would be the offense and big plays downfield would be the story of the game.
When big plays weren’t happening, big penalties interrupted the defense from establishing any rhythm. Without Luke Kuechly and then Charles Johnson going down, the McCown moved the ball at will. Hhe had all day and picked apart Carolina’s defense with precision. McCown finished the day 31-38 for 310 yds. Had it not been for Josh Norman’s heroic endzone interception, the Saint may have actually won this game.
When Carolina’s offense did get on the field, they struck big. After his customary off-kilter first drive, Cam Newton took over, going 20/31 312 yds, 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD. Newton was dialed, connecting with Greg Olsen and Tedd Ginn for big plays down field. Olsen had a monster game, finishing with 8 catches, 138 yds, and 2 TDs.
For the third straight week, Carolina struggled rushing the ball. Jonathan Stewart gained only 52 yds on the ground, and without Cam’s 33 yards, the Panthers only rushed for 88 yds.
Every time Carolina’s offense injected life into the game, the referees smothered any confidence with a barrage of yellow flags. The Panthers racked up 10 penalties for 88 yards this week. Carolina’s pass-rush was missing-in-action, and when McCown wasn’t picking the defense apart in the air, players were holding, tripping, and slipping everywhere.
The 15-yd penalty on Teddy Williams for not getting back in bounds on punt coverage negating a muffed punt, which then led to a Saints 74-yd punt return TD on the re-kick, summed up the day. It was ugly, especially on defense.
Big plays, however, were the story of the day, and there wasn’t one much bigger than Josh Norman’s INT to seal a down to the wire win.
Carolina is now 3-0 and tied for 1st with Atlanta in the NFC South. Although it wasn’t pretty, it’s wins like this that Carolina needs most. The defense can’t be perfect, and they clearly weren’t today. Cam and the Carolina offense has to be strong enough to carry the water at times. Today, they did.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
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