That could have gone better.
After a dreadful offensive showing last week against the Buffalo Bills, Thursday night represented a get-right opportunity for the -Panthers in their third preseason game. And in a game when the team was finally playing its starters — including quarterback Cam Newton, who hadn’t seen game action since mid-December — expecting Carolina to correct at least some of its issues from a week ago wouldn’t have been an unreasonable assumption.
But think again.
The Panthers didn’t muster 100 yards of total offense until there were fewer than 10 minutes left in the game, and they only surpassed that mark against New England’s third-team defense. The offensive line ceded too much pressure to Newton and backup Kyle Allen, who completed just 3-of-6 passes for 16 yards.
But there were other miscues, too. Punt returner Terry Godwin muffed his first attempt, and the team was called for six penalties for 73 yards.
If there was a bright spot to stress, it was with the first-team defense. Carolina’s starters only allowed a single touchdown on a 1-yard rush, and otherwise largely held Tom Brady in check. Brady completed 8-of-12 passes for 75 yards, but those mostly came on check-downs the Panthers prevented from becoming first downs. The defense as a whole also finished with five sacks, showing some life to a pass rush that was dormant most of 2018.
The most troublesome part of the night came in the first quarter when Newton was sacked, brought down when a defender grabbed his lower left leg, forcing him from the game with what the team said was a foot injury.
So much for a bounce back.
Three who mattered
Cam Newton: His shoulder looked fine in three snaps of limited action, but a foot injury that forced him from the game is much more concerning with just two weeks until the regular season.
Brian Burns: The first-round rookie continues to impress, as he notched his second two-sack game of the preseason.
Joey Slye: He nailed his only field goal of the night, a 41-yarder in the fourth quarter, to remain a perfect 6-for-6 this preseason.
▪ A testament to how pitiful the Panthers’ offense was on Thursday? They punted on their first seven possessions, never gaining more than 20 net yards on any one drive.
▪ Coaches said they wanted to see more burn from backup running back Jordan Scarlett, but his impressive training camp didn’t translate in New England. He finished the night with 10 carries for 24 yards and a long run of eight yards. He did have one reception, too, but in a competitive battle for the second running back position, Scarlett didn’t do much to further separate himself.
▪ One of the key reasons Carolina struggled on offense was their inability to convert third downs. The Panthers went just 2-of-12 on third downs, compared to 10-of-17 by New England.
▪ Panthers receiver Chris Hogan, who spent the last three seasons with the Patriots, was one of the first players out for pregame warmups Thursday. He reminisced with current Patriots receiver Braxton Berrios, but did not record a catch.
▪ Panthers owner David Tepper and coach Ron Rivera met with Patriots owner Robert Kraft pregame.
▪ Rookie tackle Greg Little left the game early after being evaluated for a concussion.