Coming off a disappointing season, the Carolina Panthers were looking for a way to get back to basics in their season opener on the road at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara this afternoon, and it was the defensive unit that would step up to the plate and deliver a knockout performance as they held the San Francisco 49ers to three points on the afternoon and it would be the key component in a 23-3 win for Carolina this afternoon.
One of the storylines that Panther fans were concerned about entering today’s game was of course, starting
quarterback Cam Newton, and he did somewhat average today, as he was 14-for-25 for 171 yards, to go along with two touchdowns in the win for the Panthers, with the first of them coming in the first quarter, as his 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Russell Shepard gave Carolina an early lead at 7-0, while Shepard would end his day with 53 receiving yards to go with two receptions on the day.
Another storyline that fans kept their eye on was of course, the kicking game, and Graham Gano, who fans single-handedly wanted him gone after a dismal season last year, would silence the critics today in the game, going three-for-three in field goals, kicking two in the second quarter to increase the Panthers lead to 13-0, as Carolina would take the lead into the locker room at the half. Carolina was also eager to see what would Christian McCaffrey, who was the number 8 overall selection in last April’s NFL Draft, in his first regular season action in a Panther uniform, and he had a good outing on the rushing and receiving end of the ball, as he would rush for 47 yards on 13 attempts, with his longest being an 11-yard rush after a fumble earlier in the game, while on the receiving end of the final statsheet, he would end his day with five receptions going for 38 yards to end his day with 85 total yards in his first regular-season NFL game.
In the second half of action, the Panthers defense would take it’s turn in the spotlight, as Luke Kuechly would step up and come away with an interception off of 49ers starting quarterback Brian Hoyer, setting the table for Newton’s second touchdown pass of the day, as he would deliver a 9-yard strike to Jonathan Stewart to give the Panthers a 20-0 edge. Along with the Kuechly interception, the Panthers defense was on all cylinders today, as they sacked Hoyer 4 times in the effort, and that would be followed up later in the game with a huge stop on 4th and goal later in the game, making that the turning point of the Carolina win.
Gano would cap off the Panthers scoring with a 20-yard field goal to give them a 23-0 lead, while Robbie Gould’s 44-yard field goal in the third quarter would end the shutout bid for Carolina, making it a 20-3 edge, as Carolina would seal the deal with win number one of the 2017 season.
The Panthers will open up the home portion of the 2017 schedule next Sunday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. inside Bank of America Stadium in uptown Charlotte, as they welcome in the Buffalo Bills, who were victorious in their season opening win on their home turf against the New York Jets.