I like the idea of NFL exhibitions more than I like NFL exhibitions. Sunday’s was an exception. Weather was perfect, big plays abounded and the game was entertaining.
The Panthers began as if they were overmatched. Cam Newton couldn’t complete a pass and the defense was befuddled. Kansas City ran a perpetual fast break and Panthers defenders yelled, “Wait, stop it, no fair, we’re not ready.”
At the end of the first quarter the Panthers had as many successful challenges as they had yards. They were outgained 114 to 1.
In the second quarter they gained 127 yards. Newton hit some passes, Jonathan Stewart hit some holes, twice hitting the end zone, and Kelvin Benjamin grabbed two passes for 41 yards. Earlier he was open deep along the left sideline but Newton missed him.
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Brenton Bersin made two catches, one for a touchdown. Linebacker A.J. Klein picked off a pass. Fozzy Whittaker ran for a touchdown. If you liked football, you liked it.
• I love to watch the players who rarely get the accolades – Bersin, Klein, The Foz – take a turn. Each of them ran to the bench and it was as if an imaginary red carpet was rolled out in front of them.
While they tried to look humble and cool, ecstatic teammates slapped their pads, shouted encouragement or embraced them. All was right in Panthers world.
In the fourth quarter, Fozzy made a nice run after catching a short pass and Newton joined him on the field, gesturing and smiling, one of the world’s tallest cheerleaders.
• Benjamin, the rookie first-round pick from Florida State, made his first mistakes as a Panther, and he made them almost simultaneously. After a pass out of bounds from Derek Anderson, Benjamin bumped cornerback Chris Owens’ helmet with his helmet and shoved him. Owens flew as if propelled.
Benjamin was penalized for unnecessary roughness. Owens was penalized for being 5-foot-9 and weighing 180 pounds. Benjamin is 6-5, 240. He was ahead on points.
• Speaking of points, former Minnesota and Atlanta defensive end Ray Edwards stopped Charlotte’s Djuan Hughey in Charlotte on Saturday with a fourth-round TKO. Edwards’ boxing record is 8-0. Which athletes make the best boxers: defensive ends, power forwards, shortstops or linebackers? Not punters, probably.
• The Panthers have had five winning seasons. In those seasons their preseason records are: 2-2 (1996); 4-0 (’03); 2-2 (’05); 2-2 (’08); and 3-1 (’13).
What’s it mean? It means this column was too short and I needed four more sentences.