JACKSONVILLE, Fla. The Carolina Panthers won the game but lost Luke Kuechly to the concussion protocol.
Carolina beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-9 on Sunday, struggling through offensive inefficiency and losing its best defensive player to a head injury late in the second quarter.
The difference in a game that saw five field-goal attempts and just two offensive touchdowns was Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, who created two turnovers and six points.
Norman punched the ball away from Allen Hurns inside the Carolina 20, stopping a drive in the second quarter. Then in the third quarter, Norman intercepted Blake Bortles and returned the ball 30 yards for a touchdown.
“It was a tough, physical win,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Not satisfied, though. We made too many mistakes. They’re a good football team. They went out and did some things and got after us. We missed some opportunities. You can’t miss opportunities when you have them, especially in this game. We kicked too many field goals.”
Quarterback Cam Newton finished 18-of-31 passing for 175 yards, a touchdown and one interception on a throw on which he didn’t follow through completely after his shoulder got hit.
Expected to be a bigger part of the offense with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin out for the season, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen only had one catch on three targets for 11 yards.
Three who mattered
Michael Oher: He was beaten twice for sacks, once on a spin move and another on a bull rush. There would have been a third in the third quarter had Newton not spun away.
A.J. Klein: The third-year linebacker came on in place of Kuechly at middle linebacker and handled his responsibilities well in the second half.
Ted Ginn Jr.: Ginn had two drops in the first quarter but also had a 37-yard punt return and two catches of more than 17 yards.
▪ The Panthers had a touchdown come off the board early when tight end Greg Olsen pushed off a Jaguars defender. The Panthers went from the 4 to the 25 after the penalty and a sack and kicked a field goal.
▪ Rookie offensive tackle Daryl Williams left the game in the first half with a right knee injury. The severity of the injury was unclear, but players were hopeful he’d be able to return quickly.
▪ Norman celebrated his interception for a touchdown by “riding the pony” into the end zone and dismounting. Norman is an avid rider and owns multiple horses.
▪ Thomas Davis recorded his seventh career interception with less than three minutes left in the game after Bortles was hit while throwing.
▪ With less than two weeks to digest the playbook, recently acquired receiver Kevin Norwood was inactive for the Panthers. He was joined on the healthy scratch list by linebacker David Mayo, running back Brandon Wegher and safety Dean Marlowe.
▪ Graham Gano, who missed six field goals all of last year, missed one Sunday. He was wide left from 53 yards in the first quarter, made two, then had his last attempt blocked.
▪ After losing a second-quarter challenge on a Newton sneak, Ron Rivera is 6-for-19 on challenges in his coaching career.
▪ Jerricho Cotchery’s first-half touchdown matched his season total from 2014.
▪ Rivera said he was not sure the extent of Kuechly’s concussion but that Kuechly would be in the concussion protocol.
They said it
▪ “It wasn’t pretty at times, but we showed flashes of what we’re capable of doing.” – Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
▪ “First game is always a little tricky, the beginning of the season. I think we played well, but not great. We need to go out, see what we did wrong, and make a couple more catches and a couple more throws. It’s all a part of football. First game, we got a victory. That’s the most important thing.” – Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.
▪ “You obviously get reps in practice throughout the week and when this kind of thing happens you have to be the next man up. I played Mike (middle linebacker) all preseason so when Luke goes down I go in. simple as that.” – Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein.
▪ “He’s in a good place right now. He’s feeling good. It’s all about getting him nursed back to health.” – Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, on Kuechly