Nothing special from Cam Newton or the running game, but the Carolina Panthers got plenty of offense from defensive players and special teams, including Ted Ginn Jr. returning a punt for a touchdown, and two interceptions and a fumble returned for scores as well, making up for their attack’s lack of productivity.
The Panthers ended up beating the Baltimore Ravens 34-27, even with Cam Newton going 10-of-19 for only 99 yards while getting sacked three times, or the running game looking even worse. Newton himself went off for a couple of runs for 20 yards, but Kenjon Barner got only 7 yards out of his two carries, and DeAngelo Williams was even poorer with two yards on four carries.
Most of the praise at the end of the game went to Luke Kuechly, as the second year linebacker proved that this might be a season in which he announces himself as one of the best in the NFL at his position. He was pretty much all over the field. He forced the fumble that Thomas Davis jumped on in order to score a touchdown, and he also intercepted a pass that led to the Panthers scoring a field goal, going up 24-7 to end the first half.
Kuechly wasn’t the only one to intercept passes off of Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor, with Drayton Florence returning one for a touchdown in the first half and D.J. Moore picking off one himself in the third quarter to put the Panthers up 34-17 before they allowed the Ravens to get a little bit closer in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers did a good job in getting to Joe Flacco as well, sacking the quarterback three times. Their two rookie defensive tackles, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, made their first big impression in the preseason by getting a sack each, with both of them looking quite effective against the run as well, especially Lotulelei.
But not everything was all peachy. The offense looking creaky and in shambles is a cause for worry, it being not the first time we’ve seen the Panthers like this in the preseason. They punted on their first three drives, with the first-team offense never really finding a rhythm before leaving the field. There is the theory that they’re keeping things very simple for the preseason, but many might suggest that there’s plenty to be worried about.
Ted Ginn Jr. was supposed to make a big impact, and his punt return for 74 yards certainly seems like one. With the offense looking this bad, any help is more than welcome. Cam Newton needs to become a much more consistent figure with his passing, as it will also help establish the running game that should be doing a lot more than the quarterback scrambles which seem to be the only things that work.
The Panthers have a shot to do better than last year with their improved defense and hopefully somewhat of a revamped offense, but so far in the preseason, it seems like nothing is really clicking for them when they have the ball, even if the winning record suggests otherwise.