Carolina Panthers: The Season So Far

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 24: Luke Kuechly /
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SANTA CLARA, CA – SEPTEMBER 10: Jonathan Stewart
SANTA CLARA, CA – SEPTEMBER 10: Jonathan Stewart /

Carolina Panthers 23, San Francisco 49ers 3

One of the biggest hindrances to the Panthers’ season in 2016-17 was the decline of Newton’s play. Sustaining a concussion in Carolina’s fourth game of the campaign certainly didn’t help. There was much speculation as to how the Auburn product would rebound, especially after having rotator cuff surgery back in March. Newton was held to only one game during the preseason, but he was 2-for-2 through the air for 21 yards on his lone drive against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a nine-yard strike to Benjamin for a touchdown. However, would that indicate Newton would start the 2017 season on the right foot? (Spoiler: yes)

The Panthers and 49ers started the season opener by trading punts until Wes Horton sacked Brian Hoyer, forcing a fumble recovered by Star Lotulelei at the San Francisco 42-yard line. Three plays later, the Panthers drew first blood with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Russell Shepard. With that score, the Panthers would lead the rest of the way for the 20-point win.

Graham Gano booted two field goals before the end of the half to give the Panthers a 13-0 lead at halftime, but Carolina would capitalize on another drive succeeding a 49er turnover. On San Francisco’s first drive of the second half, the Panthers’ defensive leviathan Luke Kuechly intercepted Hoyer, putting the Carolina offense on the 49er 28.

Newton, Jonathan Stewart, and Christian McCaffrey pushed the team into the red zone before a defensive pass interference penalty gave Carolina 1st-and-Goal from the nine-yard line, setting Newton up for a touchdown pass to Stewart. After a San Francisco punt, the teams traded field goals to wrap up the rest of the contest’s scoring.

The offense took advantage of the San Francisco defense, led by a 14-for-25 performance from Newton despite throwing a pick. However, the Panther defense was the biggest bright spot of the game. Along with holding the 49ers to only three points, the Carolina D held the opposing offense to 51 yards rushing and forced two aforementioned turnovers. Kuechly and the ageless wonder Thomas Davis led the team in tackles with seven each while Davis, Horton, Lotulelei, Shaq Thompson, and Julius Peppers combined to sack Hoyer four times.