Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin sure showed his lack of experience again Thursday night in New Orleans’ 28-10 whipping of Carolina.
Benjamin dropped what should have been a touchdown pass for the second straight game. Cam Newton hit him in the hands with a slant pass, and Benjamin had the ball bounce right off him.
Some of Newton’s throws to Benjamin were simply too high, but he also failed to win a one-on-one battle at the goal line on one of the red-zone throws he was drafted to catch. And he had a holding penalty that negated a first-down run by Jonathan Stewart. The thing is, though, the Panthers have to keep sinking or swimming with Benjamin because he remains clearly their best receiver.
• The Panthers’ defense was very good during the first quarter, forcing turnovers from Drew Brees on each of New Orleans’ first two possessions. But after those turnovers, both Carolina drives stalled just inside the New Orleans 40, and in both cases coach Ron Rivera decided to punt.
I thought that was a mistake in each case. Graham Gano certainly has the leg for it – why not give him a chance at a 56-yard field goal? The score was 0-0 then, but you have to know New Orleans is at least going to score in the 20s, and that’s even if you make the Saints start at their 10 on every possession. To beat the Saints, you have to go with possible points over field position every time.
• Rare sight in pregame: Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, in his golf cart, and agent Drew Rosenhaus chatting briefly. Rosenhaus represents a number of Panthers, including tight end Greg Olsen, and the agent was on the sideline with members of Olsen’s family.
• There were a fair number of Halloween-themed costumes in the stands, but there were even more New Orleans Saints jerseys.
Most of the seats were filled with black-clad Panthers fans, but there also were a surprising number of no-shows – I’d say maybe 5,000 to 7,000. Thursday night games sound like a lot of fun until the alarm rings on Friday morning.
• Panthers cornerback Antoine Cason had a horrible last series of the first half, as Brees worked on him repeatedly. Brees beat Cason on a third-and-10 deep in New Orleans territory, then he just kept throwing that way until he got Cason to commit a terrible pass interference penalty in the end zone. The resulting 32-yard penalty let New Orleans enter halftime ahead 14-0, and sent the Panthers to their locker room with a chorus of boos.
After that, Cason was benched. As you might guess, that didn’t stop the Saints.