By: Allan Erickson
What a game. The LA Rams beat the Panthers 30-27 in a game that was one of the better ones of the weekend. What’s worse for the Panthers- this is a game they should’ve won. Here are the reasons the Panthers fell to the Rams in the season opener.
1- Turnovers. Any time you go -2 in the turnover battle, you’re going to lose that game. DJ Moore continues to show signs of a great receiver to come, but he also continues to cough up the football in crucial situations. The Panthers were marching down the field on their opening possession when Newton hit Moore on an out cutting route. Moore had an easy first down inside the Rams’ red zone. Instead, Moore fought for what only could have been an additional 1-2 yards, and Cory Littleton knocked the ball loose, the Rams recovered, and the Panthers offense was held to no points on a very promising drive to start the season. Later in the game, Cam Newton had a backward pass tipped at the line of scrimmage, resulting in the Rams getting the ball inside the Panthers’ 10-yard line. Late in the 4th quarter, Cam stared down tight end Greg Olsen and was picked off by Littleton. That was all she wrote. The Panthers didn’t protect the football against a good, stingy defense, and they paid the price.
2- Inability to stop the run. In the first half, the Rams had 47 rushing yards, fast forward to the end of the game- the Rams finished with 166 yards on the ground, including 97 from Gurley, 85 of which came in the second half. The defensive front was getting blown up by the Rams offensive line, and in the second half, Gurley and Malcolm Brown took advantage of every yard the Panthers gave them.
3- The Panthers played horrible 3rd down defense. The Rams converted 9/17 3rd downs in the game, which spells disaster for any opponent. If you can’t get off the field on 3rd down as a defense, you’re not going to win the football game. Credit the Rams and McVay’s game plan. He knew when the Panthers were going to bring pressure, and Goff was able to get the ball out quickly to playmakers like Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, who combined for 15 catches and 116 yards. The Panthers defense had no answer for these two, especially on 3rd down situations.
4- Hate to say this, but Cam Newton just missed too many opportunities. In the 4th quarter, the Panthers were driving twice, and we watched Cam Newton throw balls over the heads of wide-open receivers. I specifically remember three different occasions where Cam had Olsen, Moore, and Curtis Samuel wide open, and overshot them. All zip, no-touch. Cam is going to have to tighten those misses up if the Panthers want to win 10+ games this year.
5- Last but not least- protection. Matt Paradis was supposed to be an immediate replacement for the Panthers loss of Ryan Kalil. On Sunday, not only did he miss some protections, but he also snapped a ball before Cam Newton was ready for it, and almost caused yet another turnover for the Panthers. The offensive line didn’t look great, Cam had some time to step up in the pocket and throw, but only on a few occasions. The Rams still had three sacks, five hurries, and five hits on Cam Newton.
The biggest takeaway from week 1 for me and many Panther fans is that the Rams didn’t beat the Panthers. The Rams didn’t play a great game, and this wasn’t a situation of them just “being the better team.” No, the Panthers beat themselves in this one. This team is too talented to shoot themselves in the foot. Hopefully, this is something the Panthers will learn from, and grow from, but they can’t continue to beat themselves. It’s difficult enough to win in this league; you can’t add insult to injury and beat yourself every week.
Make sure to keep an eye out as I will Preview the Panthers vs. Buccaneers coming up on Thursday night football. Until next time, remember it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.
Y’all, Keep Pounding