Panthers Stadium photo by Shawn Smith
The Houston Texans defeated the Carolina Panthers 26-13 in the preseason opener at Bank of America Stadium Saturday evening behind an offense that seemingly fired on all cylinders.
Carolina couldn’t slow down the Texans, who continued to churn time off the clock and yardage on the field. Despite two early turnovers, the Texans amassed 174 yards rushing and 220 yards passing, totaling nearly 400 yards of offense on the evening.
Players had been raving about the improvement of the defense during camp, however it looked like more of the same on the field.
As dynamic and exciting as the Panthers offense has been over the last 12 months, the defense has been equally as disappointing and futile.
“As the game got away from us a little bit in the second half, I was truly disappointed to be very honest with you,” head coach Ron Rivera said after the game. “I expected some other guys to step up and make plays, and some guys didn’t. That’s disappointing.
“We’ll get better as a football team, and those guys will understand what it takes to be on this football team, as far as I’m concerned.”
“He was embarrassed,” Panthers receiver Seyi Ajirotutu said of Coach Rivera. “We’ve practiced harder, we’ve executed better. We just didn’t execute tonight. There’s no reason I can point to other than saying we just didn’t play well.”
The lone bright spots of the night for the Panthers were rookies Luke Kuechly, Joe Adams and Tauren Poole.
Poole, an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee, led the Panthers with 26 yard rushing on 4 carries and scored their only touchdown on the evening.
Adams showed why the Panthers drafted him with a dazzling punt return in the third quarter. “Joe Adams is dynamic,” Rivera said. “Hold onto your britches, because there is no telling what is going to happen with him.”
Kuechly was all over the field and caused a key first quarter fumble. “He didn’t see me coming, and I was able to get a good knock on the ball,” Kuechly said. “Luckily we were able to jump on it.”
The Panthers Offense never could really get anything going. Cam Newton was a paltry 2 of 6 for 17 yards. Derek Anderson played most of the game and led the team with 99 yards on 7 of 12 passing. Jimmy Clausen closed out the game completing 3 of his 6 attempts while succumbing to 5 sacks under ridiculous pressure.
“I felt like, myself included, it was lethargic,” Quarterback Cam Newton said of the offense.
The most troubling trend of the game was the Panthers secondary, who left Houston’s receivers wide open most of the night. Safety Charles Godfrey allowed a key third down conversion in the first quarter, continuing his streak of sub par play.
If the Panthers can’t find quality secondary players — and there’s no reason to think they’ve found any — then they have no chance at making the playoffs. They simply have not addressed a glaring weakness, and there is no reason for optimism defensively.
The Panthers have a shorter week this week with the Dolphins coming to town on Friday night.