The Carolina Panthers start off the season with a 16 – 10 lose to division rival Tampa Bay. While the Buccaneers looked sharp and may be poised to shock teams this year, this was a poor beginning to a very difficult start to the 2012 Panthers Campaign. The Panthers will need to regroup quickly before facing the Saints and Giants within a 5 day period. With both of those teams coming off hard Week 1 loses, Ron Rivera will have his work cut out for him to avoid an early 0 – 3 record before facing the Falcons who put up by far the most impressive Week 1 performance of NFC South teams.
Cam Newton threw for over 300 yards but also turned the ball over on 2 interceptions and led an offensive unit that only converted 2 – 10 on 3rd downs. The rushing attack was nonexistent. The Panthers were held to 10 yards on 13 carries, an unacceptable stat to a team built for running the football. The offensive line looked shaky against a relatively young Tampa Bay defensive line. Center Ryan Kalil and Tackle Jordan Gross will need to step up and take charge in improving on a disappointing performance. The big guys provided very little room for D. Williams to run for on his 6 attempts, and failed to get enough push on a red-zone 3rd and short Newton keeper late in the fourth quarter forcing Justin Medlock on the field to complete his first field goal for the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers rushing attack seemed to get a little too creative early on instead of the physical running that the team has been known for. With Jonathan Stewart (ankle) out for Week 1, DeAngelo Williams was set to be the feature back with Mike Tolbert spelling. However, Tolbert was only given one carry and was not employed as the lead block on several of Williams attempts. With Tolbert’s arrival, the running game of the Panthers should be near unstoppable, but the run game was never established and will need to be the number one point of emphasis heading into Week 2.
The bright spot for the Panthers offense in Week 1 was the production of the Wide Receivers. Steve Smith led the way with another 100 + yard performance but the Panthers also had 2 other WR’s tally more than 50 yards. Brandon Lafell and Louis Murphy both looked good. David Gettis’s return from the PUP later in the season could make the Panthers Receiving core very dangerous.
The Panthers’ defense looked much improved over its 2011 counterpart. However it was unable to produce big plays when it mattered. Jon Beason led the way with 10 tackles in his return. The defense will be facing Super Bowl MVP’s in back to back weeks. These challenges will let Ron Rivera and his Defensive staff see where their unit stands very early in the season.
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Written by Chris Jackson