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What We Learned: Panthers vs. Texans

Posted Sep 20, 2015

Carolina's offensive line held its own against a formidable Houston front, giving quarterback Cam Newton time to throw and room to run.

O-LINE CAN HOLD ITS OWN AGAINST A TOP FRONT: The talk leading up to Sunday’s home opener against the Houston Texans revolved around Houston’s fearsome defensive line and Carolina’s ability to keep J.J. Watt and Co. away from quarterback Cam Newton.

At the heart of it all was right tackle Mike Remmers, who was the man tasked with blocking the two-time Defensive Player of the Year "about 95 percent of the time." And he held his own.

Head coach Ron Rivera made mention of Remmers’ performance when he spoke to the team after the 24-17 victory.

"J.J. Watt – he’s a pretty big deal, so it was really special to be able to go out and play him," Remmers said. "He’s a handful on every single play. There’s no doubt about that. I just stuck to my technique and I felt good about that.

"I have to give a huge shout-out to right guard Trai Turner, and really everyone out there – the tight ends, running backs – they helped me out tremendously. It was a great team victory."

Watt finished with five tackles, one sack and two passes defensed – a productive day no doubt, but not the typical dominance Watt has grown accustomed to.

"It’s not easy. I’m glad my guy (Remmers) was able to come out and have an awesome game," Turner said. "He deserves every bit of the congratulations that he’s going to get."

Overall, Newton was sacked just twice, and Carolina opened plenty of running lanes. The Panthers complied 172 yards on the ground, averaging 5.2 yards per rushing play.

"Against a very good defense, I’m proud of what we did," Rivera said. "That is a tremendous defensive front."

NORMAN IS IN SHUTDOWN MODE: Another key matchup entering Sunday’s game was cornerback Josh Norman versus Houston’s No. 1 wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins.

Norman, who is emerging as one of the top cornerbacks in the league, helped limit Hopkins to five catches on 11 targets for 53 yards. Norman finished with five tackles and two passes defensed and he was pleased with how that particular matchup unfolded.

"It was great to go up against a guy like that and compete at that high level," Norman said. "I had a task and a challenge this week to try to contain him. I did it to the best of my ability."


WRS CAN MAKE PLAYS DOWNFIELD: Wide receivers Ted Ginn, Jr. and Philly Brown put the struggles behind them and used their speed to contribute in a big way against Houston.

Ginn, who dropped a would-be third down conversion in Houston territory early in the game, responded by hauling a 25-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

"My confidence was never really shaken," GInn said. "You have your ups and downs. I went through trials and tribulations and still came back to make a play for my team."

Brown, Carolina’s other starting wideout, beat Texans cornerback Jonathan Joseph over the top for what proved to be the game-winning 36-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

"It is just about guys doing their jobs," quarterback Cam Newton explained. "Everybody sees the dropped balls and they are able to point to confidence.

"My confidence wasn’t shattered in giving opportunities to guys that are doing what they are supposed to do."

SPECIAL TEAMS SHOWS STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS: In a game where the defenses exerted control most of the day, field position was critical. Punter Brad Nortman and the coverage team came through time and time again.

"Nortman punting the ball the way he did and really stretching our coverage team, that was huge," Rivera said.

Four of Nortman’s seven punts went for 60 yards or more. He averaged 53.9 yards per punt with a net of 42.7.

"This was the sort of day where I found a good rhythm," Nortman said. "There is no reason why I can’t go out there and punt like this all the time. I’ve got a great cover team to cover those punts. It was a combination of hitting the ball well and allowing our guys to go out there and hunt in order to flip field position."

But while Nortman and the punt team impressed Rivera, the kicking team left him frustrated for the second week in a row.

Graham Gano’s 53-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter was blocked, making that two blocked kicks in two weeks.

"I’m a little disappointed with what’s going on up front with the field goal team," Rivera said. "We can’t have that. We have to find out exactly what it is because people are going to attack us at that point.

"We need to make sure we have the right people in there and we are executing and doing that the way it needs to be done."