The Carolina Panthers got the 2017 season off to a successful start as they pinned a 23-3 beating on the San Francisco 49ers.
As the score indicated, the Panthers got a strong performance from the defense while the offense did enough to win and moved the chains enough to keep the defense off the field for long periods of time.
The return of Luke Kuechly played a big part in the defense’s resurgence. After suffering a concussion in Week 11 last year and only playing in 10 games, the All-Pro linebacker ended the first game with five tackles and an interception which he returned for 23 yards.
The return of Julius Peppers to the defensive front was also a success. Carolina put constant pressure on San Francisco quarterback Brian Hoyer. The Panthers recorded four sacks and caused Hoyer to lose a fumble. The defense also limited the 49ers to just 51 rushing yards.
Offensively, Carolina hung its hat on the runningback duo of Johnathan Stewart and rookie Christian McCaffrey. Gone are the days when quarterback Cam Newton will be called upon to win games by himself.
The use of Stewart and McCaffrey in the rushing and pass game kept the 49ers guessing. Both averaged just under four yards a carry. McCaffrey led the offense with his five receptions from Newton. He and Stewart together combined for 112 rushing yards and 55 of the teams 171 passing yards.
Newton got off to a slow start. He completed only five of his first 16 passes for 63 yards, 40 of those coming on one scoring pass to Russell Shepard in the first quarter. After those first 16 attempts, Newton completed all nine of his remaining passing attempts for 108 yards.
The Panthers will look to build upon their opening win on the road when they return home this week to host the Buffalo Bills.
Panic In New England?
The New England Patriots went through the offseason picking up accolades of being the best team in the NFL. The Pats were virtual locks to return to the Super Bowl to defend their title. In fact, there was a great deal of talk about New England making a run at a perfect 19-0 record.
Well, the Patriots opened up the NFL season last Thursday and now there is a great deal of talk about their possible demise. All because the Kansas City Chiefs came to New England and handed the Pats a humbling 42-27 defeat.
You know how the media works. Especially if you get outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter at home. And after giving up 537 yards of offense to quarterback Alex Smith, of all people. Yes, Smith and normally conservative offense of the Chiefs averaged a staggering 8.3 yards a play against the New England defense.
Losses like this are rare in New England. But they have happened over the years. And the panic talk heats up. I have learned not to fall for it. Not when Tom Brady is the quarterback and Bill Belichick is the head coach.
Belichick has long had a reputation as a defensive coach. He will make adjustments and the team will likely make a trade for a pass rusher.
Brady has also faced talk of his time being over. He will respond and be all right. Brady did not give up over 500 yards of offense. He and his offense put 27 points on the board.
Regarding the 19-0 talk. That was nonsense anyway. How did everyone forget that the Pats are vulnerable on defense? That incredible Super Bowl comeback last season masked the stink of falling behind, 28-3, to Atlanta. New England has always struggled with teams that can put points on the board and has a pass rush that bothers Brady.
Thing is, there are not many teams like that in the NFL. New England will adjust and we will be seeing them deep in the playoffs.
Featured Image: Cam Newton against the 49ers last week
Image: Tom Brady