It was a rough start for the Panthers in the 2012 season, as they fell to last years basement dweller Tampa Bay. Cam Newton did not play horrible, but it wasn’t enough to make up for a dreadful running game. Dreadful may not even be the right word, it was beyond pathetic. Losing Jonathan Stewart hurt, but DeAngelo Williams is not an inexperienced RB to say the least. He finished with -1 yards on 7 carries. That’s right, he couldn’t even gain a single yard when it was all said and done. Mike Tolbert ended up with just one carry, and the leading rusher ended up being Pilares who had one carry for 5 yards. You won’t win many games when you’re leading rusher has one carry.
So Cam Newton had to make up for it with a good game through the air, but he ended up hurting himself with 2 costly interceptions. He eclipsed the 300 yard mark and did throw one score, but two bad interceptions ultimately did him in. It is easy to forget that Cam is just in his second year and is still prone to mistakes after his electric rookie season. However, he is still very young and inexperienced, so days like this are still going to happen. I fully expect him to rebound soon and play much better. It will help when the running game improves which should happen once Stewart returns. He was a game time call today, so it seems like a good chance that he will suit up next week, which is great news.
Steve Smith continued to be Cam’s top target, and it is obvious that Carolina is going to find ways to get the ball in his hands. He had 106 yards on 7 catches. It seems as though Brandon LaFell has separated himself as the number two target for now as he caught the one score of the day for the Panthers. Louis Murphey had one big play of 51 yards, but was quiet for the rest of the day. Greg Olsen was solid with 6 catches with 56 yards. I think he will have a big season, and will build on those numbers from week to week.
The defense wasn’t too bad. They held Tampa to just 16 points and gave up only 138 passing yards to starting QB Josh Freeman. Doug Martin, the rookie RB from Boise St., was able to rush for 95 yards, but it took him 24 carries to do so. That is not bad for a rookie, but he didn’t exactly torch Carolina on the ground. What hurt them the most is that they didn’t cause any turnovers. Josh Freeman basically gift wrapped turnovers last year for opposing teams, but kept the ball in his teammates hands today. Give some credit to Tampa, but Carolina has got to make something happen in the future.
Carolina will look to rebound next week when they make their home debut against the Saints. New Orleans shockingly lost to the Redskins today in a game that RGIII absolutely destroyed the Saints defense. They have a lot of holes on the defensive side of the ball, even with Will Smith’s suspension overturned. Griffin is a QB of similar skill set to Cam Newton, so hopefully he pays very close attention to how he exposed the Saints today. The impact of losing Sean Payton could be greater than most people even thought, so this could be an interesting game. Of course, Drew Brees is still around, which will keep them in the game every time.