The Carolina Panthers started their season with a hard-fought defeat to the Las Vegas Raiders. Here is some instant analysis from the game.
The Carolina Panthers opened up their 2020 season with a 34-30 home defeat to the Las Vegas Raiders. There were plenty of positives in the first half before the roster tailed off dramatically in the third quarter which proved crucial to their demise.
This was a steep learning curve for the group and one they must learn from quickly. New head coach Matt Rhule will have found out plenty about his players from his first game in a leadership role at the next level. But they are sure to get another stern test next weekend when they travel to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There were plenty of positives to take from the game. But some glaring deficiencies coming into the season were more than evident, to put it mildly.
Here is some instant analysis from the game at an empty Bank of America Stadium.
Some fluidity on offense
One thing that was especially evident throughout the game was the fluidity of the Carolina Panthers’ offense. They showed tremendous promise to score on their first three drives and things might have been even better had it not been for missed opportunities on their two successful field goals.
Joe Brady’s scheme is clearly something that has the potential to get the most out of the weapons at Teddy Bridgewater‘s disposal. They moved the ball quickly down the field, especially in the first half. But they will look back at some missed opportunities that may have put more points on the board.
An unfortunate turn of events for Donte Jackson
There were plenty of expectations on the shoulders of Donte Jackson, who is the Panthers’ No. 1 cornerback option going into the season.
He didn’t last long, going out of the game early in the fourth quarter following Josh Jacobs‘ opening touchdown following a big play from Henry Ruggs. It is a far from ideal start for a defense that is already depleted and devoid of any real coaching experience.
It remains to be seen whether Jackson will be available for their Week 2 game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But it was nothing short of a disaster for them against the Raiders.
Teddy Bridgewater looked good in parts
All eyes were on Teddy Bridgewater during his first game under center for the Panthers. The quarterback was as advertised and looks like he can put up some solid numbers throughout the season. He did miss some easy throws. But that is to be expected being a little rusty in-game.
Bridgewater’s poise in the pocket was there for all to see and he was largely accurate, completing 22/34 of his passes for 270 yards and one touchdown. Considering he had no preseason games to call upon, this was an encouraging performance.
Run defense remains a concern
It didn’t take Jon Gruden long to figure out that the damage running the ball would be done on the edge. There was little joy up the middle with Kawann Short and Derrick Brown. But the back found plenty of joy running on the outside.
This is an area that did pose some concern for the Panthers going into the season. Losing Luke Kuechly was always going to come with a period of transition and this will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Missed tackles were a problem
There are few more frustrating things to watch on a football field than missed tackles. The Panthers fell foul of this on countless occasions and this further complicated matters for a group that was without the services of their best cornerback for the majority of the contest.
Christian McCaffrey was underused early on
Christian McCaffrey looked like he was going to have a big day with an early touchdown. But the Panthers didn’t utilize him as much as they probably should have early in the ball game.
The Raiders keyed in on the All-Pro, putting the game in Bridgewater’s hands instead. McCaffrey logged 26 combined touches during the game, with most coming in the second half. Getting the balance right is going to be critical. But they didn’t let the running back set the tone as he has done in the past.
The Carolina Panthers came out incredibly slow at the start of the second half and it cost them. They were sluggish on offense and their coverage at the second level left a lot to be desired.
They came out of the locker room sluggish after a positive first-half display. This is where the Raiders took full advantage, pulling away to a lead that Carolina could never match up with.
Rhule was concerned about the team not generating their own energy during an in-game practice before the season and his concerns proved true.
Carolina’s offensive line was a nice surprise
Although the Panthers didn’t get the win, their offensive line production was actually superb. They kept Teddy Bridgewater’s pocket clean for the majority of the game and provided enough holes for Christian McCaffrey to work in.
The Carolina Panthers will be encouraged by what they saw from their protection in Week 1 and this could be the catalyst for bigger and better things in the future.
Pharoh Cooper was excellent
Another big plus for the Carolina Panthers was the performance of kick returner Pharoh Cooper. He was dazzling throughout to give the offense some prominent field position which is exactly why he was brought to the organization.
There wasn’t much in the way of opportunities for Cooper in the passing game. But he was still able to make an impact in the area he specializes in.
Coaching calls came up short in big situations
Some of the play-calling throughout the game left a lot to be desired in crucial situations. This was especially evident in their crucial fourth-and-one late in the game where they opted to give the ball to Alex Armah rather than use the hot hand of McCaffrey, who had carried it for three consecutive downs prior.
They are going to be learning as they go this season and this was as harsh a lesson as they could have possibly have asked for.