CHARLOTTE — Fake games can be cause for a little real worry, and so it was with the Carolina Panthers’ first exhibition Friday night.
The worry stems mainly from the uneven performance by the first-team offense, which had a “one step forward, one step back” kind of night at Bank of America Stadium.
In three first-quarter series under Cam Newton, the Panthers netted out zero. They scored a touchdown, yes, but they also allowed one when Newton’s final pass of the evening was taken back 51 yards for a touchdown.
On the other two series, the Panthers punted and scored. The touchdown came on the second series after a Josh Norman interception of Jay Cutler put the ball at the Chicago 18. Newton ended up 3-6 for 16 yards, with a three-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell and the interception.
On the pickoff, Newton was trying to find Greg Olsen on a third-and-2 over the middle when Bears linebacker Jonathan Bostic stepped in front of the pass and went all the way with it.
Newton loves to look for Steve Smith, who wasn’t in the game at the time, and Olsen, his big tight end. He’s a little too predictable with where he wants to go with the ball.
Newton didn’t get a chance to redeem himself, as he had 13 snaps by then and was scheduled for 10-15. He left the field with his uniform still spotless, which is fine in these exhibitions. The rest can be worked on.
And it needs to be, because the Panthers offensively weren’t where they wanted to be Friday – and not just their first team. By halftime, backup quarterback Derek Anderson threw an interception too, and rookie running back Kenjon Barner had lost a fumble as well. Both looked better later in the second quarter.
Also on the plus side, the first-team defense looked really good. There was Norman’s interception – on Cutler’s very first pass. Luke Kuechly was all over the field, and Charles Johnson had an early sack.