For a debut, the Carolina Panthers 23-3 win over the 49ers was far from perfect, but judging by social media, it was satisfying for Panthers’ fans.
Coming off a disappointing 6-10 season, Carolina’s defense clamped down on the 49ers early and didn’t let up. Luke Kuechly was Luke Kuechly again, after suffering two concussions last year, and new Panther Julius Peppers got a sack.
On offense, quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t super sharp. He missed some throws high, an old bugaboo, and missed a wide open gimme touchdown pass.
Newton, however, threw the short, quick pass often and didn’t hold onto the ball much. He got better as the game went on. He was 6-for-6 in the second half, for example, for 63 yards. His line also did a much better on protection. Rookie Christian McCaffrey had some nice moments and was so good that the 49ers may’ve paid him a little too much attention a few times, allowing teammates to get open. Newton also hit McCaffrey a few times, too.
Overall, the Panthers appeared to be a much better team than a year ago -- even if they did beat-up a team not expected to make much noise this season. San Francisco, for example, allowed 20 or more points for the 16th straight game.
Twitter noticed a little change from the 2016 Panthers.
The game, really, had very little drama -- well except when Newton ran left on a bootleg and lept over a defender near the sidelines and landed on his surgically repaired throwing shoulder. Newton laid on the ground for a minute, feigning injury, before popping up and toss-spinning the ball to a ref and flashing his familiar big smile.
Another big story was the NFL debut of McCaffrey. He showed off the shiftiness and quickness that Panthers veterans had gushed about in preseason. One of his former teammates, Austin Duke, gushed about him Sunday. Duke, a former Independence High star, was on Carolina’s roster in preseason.
He had a fourth quarter fumble -- after being stripped on a reverse-field run. Earlier in the game, the 49ers were successful in pulling the ball away, after McCaffrey was down.
And the view from San Francisco
Well, 49ers fans, as you might expect, were not exactly thrilled by Sunday’s proceedings.
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr