There was reason for optimism coming into the Bengals game for Panthers fans. Their rookie QB hadn't looked horrible, and was getting good experience under his belt.
After Thursday's game in Cincinnati, there's a little less optimism in Charlotte.
The Panthers defense was poor, allowing Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton to pass for 130 yards and a touchdown, completing 11 of his 17 attempts while the Bengals amassed 191 yards on the ground.
There were points in the game where the Panthers defenders would give up huge run after huge run, with the only thing stopping the Bengals being the Bengals themselves.
The Bengals scored 24 unanswered points in the second quarter, however the Panthers made adjustments and didn't allow a score after halftime.
“The first half wasn’t good enough," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said after the game. "The way we started out the second half is the way we have to start football games—that’s just the bottom line,” Rivera said. “As I told the guys, we’re the little brothers getting punched in the head right now, but pretty soon we’re going to learn to punch back.”
Cam Newton had his most extensive playing time of the preseason, finishing 6 of 19 passing for 75 yards. “That’s an embarrassing stat,” Newton said. “That’s not acceptable, but I just have to keep learning from my mistakes.”
Newton displayed his scrambling ability in the first quarter, running for his first touchdown of the preseason.
“That was what the defense gave me,” Newton said after the game. “They were in man-to-man, and the defenders had their backs turned to me. When I had the opportunity to run, I ran.”
Newton was under durress much of the game, as the offensive line couldn't keep Bengals defendeers from collapsing the pocket. As a result, Newton threw many passes off his back foot—a problem he's displayed much of the preseason—usually resulting in an incompletion.
Coach Rivera was quick to not heap all of the blame on his rookie QBs shoulders.
“This is a new offense, so it’s not just about Cam getting ready—it’s about the other 10 guys, too,” said Rivera. “We’ve got to understand protections better; we’ve got to run routes better; we’ve got to run the ball better, and we’ve got to make good decisions at quarterback. It’s not just about one guy. Everybody is still learning."