Going into week 1 against the reigning NFC Champions, Los Angeles Rams, would’ve felt like, for many teams, a good chance to see where they could realistically set the bar for the season ahead – Especially for teams that finished the previous season 7-9, it looked like an opportunity to see ‘how good can we be?’
The difference is, Carolina is not a team that wants to see how good they can be. They feel like they already know that. Week 1 was a chance to show that to everybody else who had spent the last 7 months doubting them, and for most of the game, the opportunity to steal a victory was right in front of them.
Whether it be D.J. Moore fumbling the ball on the first drive of the game (whilst the Panthers had some great rhythm on offense in the 1st Quarter) or Cam Newton overthrowing Curtis Samuel on a 3rd down after a turnover gave Carolina the ball in great field position in the 4th Quarter, the Panthers really let an opportunity to send a message to the rest of the league slip right through their fingers.
It’s tough to pinpoint the blame for this performance. It all starts at the top with the coaching staff. Even through preseason Ron Rivera’s staff has never quite seemed to have their team prepared and ready for the game. Rivera’s defense had a solid outing in the first half but never looked too in control of the game and Norv Turner’s play calling could be seen as overly conservative. Newton’s performance at QB may well be pinpointed as the reason this game was lost. For all the praise that is rightfully given to Number 1, he would be the first person to admit he didn’t play his best game today. With the lack of real game time in the preseason, this could probably be expected.
Had he done so, this would’ve likely been a comfortable Panthers win, but unfortunately, this game will go down as an L and leave a lot of questions at his doorstep.
A strong second half performance from the Rams offense, Todd Gurley specifically, allowed the Rams to control the tempo of the game and Carolina couldn’t match Los Angeles on the offense side of the ball, even with the turnovers and multiple good chances to capitalize on a poor Rams performance.
The Panthers don’t have to wait too long for a chance to bounce back, their next game being Thursday night at home to their division rivals Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Cam will be eager to bounce back with a big game, and many Panthers fans, myself included, believe that that is exactly what he will provide.