Well it is safe to say that starting rookie quarterback Cam Newton was the right decision. Newton came out and surprised everybody as he became the first ever rookie quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards in his first ever NFL game. Yes, the Cam Newton that has been so heavily scrutinized coming into the season completed 24 of 37 passes for 422 yards, three touchdowns, all while running for another.
However, it was not enough to carry the Panthers to a victory in the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals, as the Cardinals held on for a 28-21 win.
The Panthers had a shot. After Patrick Peterson returned an 89-yard punt for a touchdown to put the Cardinals up 28-21, Newton managed to drive the Panthers down to the 11-yard line but Mike Goodson was unable to stretch and get the first down on fourth and five, leaving the Panthers a yard sort of sending the game to overtime.
But man was it exciting. It was truly a breath of fresh air to see the Panthers offense move the ball. The Panthers may not win to many games early on, especially until they get some defensive tackle and corner help but they will be really fun to watch.
The other big note, Steve Smith is back. The Panthers number one receiver looked like he was 22 again. He was everywhere today and finally looked like he was having fun playing football. Smith and Newton had a connection as Newton hit No. 89 eight different times for 178 yards and two touchdowns. And the touchdowns weren’t cheap they were bomb touchdowns where Smith both times beat the coverage over top, with Newton delivering a perfect ball.
The bad news outside of the loss was the fact that Jon Beason had to leave the game with an injury. The starting middle linebacker had set out the entire preseason with an Achilles/ankle injury and had to be carted off of the field in the third quarter after just collapsing while chasing former Panther Jeff King.
We don’t know the extent of the injury at this point but if I would take a guess I would say he torn his Achilles tendon, which means he is done for the season.
Anyway, wow I cannot begin to describe how impressive Newton was today. He looked like a 15-year veteran. The Cardinals sent every type of blitz they could draw up against Newton and every time he stood in the pocket faced it and delivered strike after strike to the Panther receivers.
This kid could be special. He showed a ton of leadership and has gotten tremendously better each and every week.
But enough gushing about Newton, even though he deserves it, the Cardinals got on the board first when an easy 9-yard touchdown run by Beanie Wells on Arizona’s first possession of the game. The Cards drove down 54-yards in just six plays scoring easily.
However, the Panthers answered back with the first of the two Newton to Smith touchdown passes, this one a 77-yard pass down the left side of the field to tie it at seven.
The Panthers then took the lead in the second quarter when Newton hit Smith again for a 26-yard touchdown pass that Smith went up and took away from rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson. That play reminded me a lot of Smith and Jake Delhomme back in the day. Jake used to just throw it up there and let Smith go get it and Newton seems to have learned that early on.
But the Cardinals came back when former Panther tight end Jeff King found a whole in the coverage and got up for an easy 48-yard touchdown pass by Kevin Kolb. By the way, Kolb had a great game in his own right. He finished 18-27, throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad for his first game in the desert.
This was the play Beason was hurt on. He was trying to catch up to King and then just collapsed on the field. He wasn’t hit or anything, the Achilles just gave out on him.
The Panthers answered back though as Newton and the coaches took a play out of Auburn’s playbook allowing Newton to take the shotgun snap and just power into the endzone for the 21-7 lead.
But that was all the scoring the Panthers had in them as the Cardinals busted open two more big plays an Early Doucet 70 yard slant pass and then the Peterson punt return, which drove the nail into the coffin for the Panthers.
I know it wasn’t the ending many Panther fans wanted but it was improvement. This was the best game a Panther’s football team has played in in over 16 games and hopefully the best is yet to come.