Carolina Panthers

Grading the Carolina Panthers in their season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams

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L.A. Rams at Carolina Panthers

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It’s kind of nice to have a player like running back Todd Gurley available as Plan B, huh? The Los Angeles Rams ate up clock and yardage in the fourth quarter after the Carolina Panthers crept back to a one-score deficit in a 30-27 season-opening loss.

Passing offense

D: Quarterback Cam Newton was frequently high with his throws in the second half and then was picked off by linebacker Cory Littleton with 6 minutes remaining. The other problems were sacks (two in the first half by linebacker Dante Fowler) and turnovers. DJ Moore, who had fumble problems last season, gave up the ball on a second-effort attempt after a catch. Then, Newton threw a backward pass, targeted for Moore, that was tipped, recovered by the Rams and ruled a lateral.

Rushing offense

B-plus: Christian McCaffrey’s touchdown run in the Wildcat formation in the third quarter was huge in getting the Panthers back in this game. His cutback for a 17-yard gain on the Panthers’ second offensive play showed abundant vision. His second-effort run into the end zone early in the fourth quarter trimmed the deficit to one score.

Passing defense

B: A big interception by cornerback James Bradberry ended a drive deep into Panthers territory in the fourth quarter. A pretty blatant pass-interference penalty on cornerback Donte Jackson in the third quarter. Rookie pass-rusher Brian Burns, who started in place of the injured Bruce Irvin, had some nice pressures, but this wasn’t enough of a departure overall from the sack-poor 2018 season.

Rushing defense

F: Gurley, returning from knee problems last season, didn’t hurt the Panthers in the first half, but his 25-yard sweep in the third quarter was costly and a 17-yard burst up the middle with 10 minutes left was the last thing the Panthers could afford after closing to within a field goal. Also, a 17-yard inside hand-off to wide receiver Robert Woods really tricked the front seven.

Special teams

B: Jermaine Carter with a huge block of a punt at the start of the fourth quarter gave the Panthers possession 5 yards from the end zone. That set up a McCaffrey touchdown to make it a three-point game. Inauspicious start for new placekicker Joey Slye, who missed his first regular-season field goal from 53 yards. Slye’s leg strength is never a question, it’s his accuracy that was an issue at Virginia Tech.


C-minus: Two delay-of-game penalties in the first half. One of those delay-of-games happened on the same play as a Panthers offsides, and both penalties were declined because the Rams completed a 22-yard pass. That is sure not tidy game-management.