For the second week in a row the Panthers offense had a chance to take the lead or tie the game with less than a minute to go and for the second straight week Cam Newton and company fell short again, as the Panthers lost to the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.
Newton had another great game throwing the ball as the rookie quarterback completed 28 of 46 passes, good for 432 yards and a touchdown. But he also had a few bad throws as he was picked off three times in the game, twice by Charles Woodson. But still Newton played much better than can be expected for a rookie quarterback but also made some rookie mistakes that may have cost the Panthers the game.
The Panthers actually out gained the Packers in total yardage as they finished with 475 yards compared to the Packers 419, but the turnover battle killed Carolina, as it turned the ball over four times compared to Green Bay’s one.
The Panthers got off to a fast start early on as Newton lead the team to a touchdown on the opening drive. He mixed it up passing to an assortment of receivers including hitting both tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen in route to capping the drive off with a great touchdown catch by Brandon LaFell.
Speaking of LaFell there is absolutely zero reason why he shouldn’t be starting over Legedu Naanee. LaFell showed a lot today as he made two spectacular catches. He finished the day catching four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Mean while, Naanee hasn’t showed me much at all. He dropped a couple of balls today and doesn’t seem like the impact receiver the Panthers thought they were getting.
The Panthers then were able to force a fumble on the kickoff as Packer return man Randall Cobb ran into his own blocker and coughed the ball up. From there Newton and the offense moved the ball down the field but was unable to get into the endzone and had to settle for a field goal, giving them the 10-0 lead.
The Panthers added another Olindo Mare field goal at the beginning of the second quarter for a 13-0 lead. However, the Packers finally got the offense started up late in the half when John Kuhn was able to plow into the endzone for a one-yard touchdown run cutting the Panthers lead to 13-7 at the half.
The Packers then took the lead when Rodgers hit one of his wide recievers for the first of two huge plays that the Panthers defense gave up. This one was a 46-yarder to Greg Jennings, giving the Packers their first lead of the game 14-13. Safety Jordan Pugh was on the coverage and basically got completely toasted by Jennings deep for an easy pitch and catch.
After that the Panthers started to play sloppy. Newton threw his second and third interceptions of the day and Steve Smith fumbled away the football, all of which lead to Packers field goals, giving them a 23-13 lead.
But Cam Newton and the Panthers weren’t dead yet. Newton managed to get the Panthers down inside of the redzone but couldn’t drive the ball into the endzone, instead having to settle for a field goal, still making it a one possession game.
But Rodgers put the game away when he hit Jordy Nelson on a quick slant at his own 16-yard line. Nelson took it from there sprinting the rest of the way into the endzone for a 84-yard touchdown pass, pretty much driving the nail into the coffin.
Newton did manage to score a rushing touchdown to get it back to a seven point game with less than a minute left but the onside kick was unsuccessful and the Packers escaped with a victory.
The defense looked much better though even in the loss, especially against the run. But still has a problem giving up to many big plays. We saw the big touchdowns last week against the Cardinals and those big plays struck again Sunday against the Packers.
One thing to note is Thomas Davis left with an injury. The starting outside linebacker was shaken up came out of the game for a few plays then returned. However, his stay was short as he left a play later and did not return the rest of the game. We will have to keep an eye on that because the Panthers can not afford to lose another leader on the defense.
Even though the Panthers are now 0-2 they are much much improved from last season. They played the Super Bowl Champions very close and had a chance to actually beat them. Had it not been for a couple of the turnovers then the Panthers may be the ones celebrating the victory and not the Packers.
This team isn’t that bad. They are going to win games and upset some teams, they just have to get over the hump. That hump could be next week when the Panthers take on the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are 1-1 this season.