CHARLOTTE – On defense, the Carolina Panthers refused to give up much ground.
On offense, however, the Panthers couldn't cover much ground, and on special teams, they kept putting the ball on the ground, all adding up to a 9-3 loss to the New York Jets in their preseason home opener Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium.
"You have to look at the glass as half-full," Panthers head coach John Fox said. "I thought our defense was outstanding. We held a team after five turnovers to 112 yards.
"If we continue that, that will give us a chance. We just have to get better on the other end."
The Jets scored all of their points after Panthers turnovers in the punt return game. Rookie Armanti Edwards misplayed the two punts he tried to field in the first quarter, and Kenny Moore fielded a third-quarter punt but coughed up the ball on a bone-crushing hit.
The defense yielded just 22 yards on the three extra possessions that the Jets gained, but that was enough given the field position for Nick Folk to boot field goals of 43, 36 and 49 yards.
"We were put in some challenging positions with field position, but that's where a defense has to play its best," said defensive end Everette Brown, who collected two of Carolina's five sacks. "We just stepped up and took advantage of every opportunity tonight to give us a chance to win."
Despite the turnover troubles – including an early interception from starting quarterback Matt Moore, who played the first half and went 6-for-17 for 57 yards – the Panthers did have a chance to win until the bitter end.
Rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who played the entire second half, navigated the Jets' relentless pass rush well enough to pick up 14 yards on a scramble and 15 more on a scramble and pass to Edwards to get to the Jets' 37-yard line at the two-minute warning.
But then Clausen committed the Panthers' fifth and final turnover, a Drew Coleman interception that essentially ended it and kept the Panthers' offense out of the end zone for the second consecutive game.
"It's always going to be a concern if you can't put the ball in the end zone, but we are making strides," said Clausen, who completed 9 of 22 passes for 72 yards. "We've just got to go out there and make plays. There were plays out there to be made.
"We made some and we didn't make some."
Special teams was an area where the Panthers knew coming into the season that they needed to make more quality plays, but it started out in the wrong direction Saturday. On the Jets' first punt, Edwards didn't move up to field a short punt, and it hit blocker Jordan Pugh in the back of the leg, leading to a recovery by the Jets.
The next time Edwards dropped back, he called for a fair catch near the 10 but let the ball slip through his hands.
"I made two big mistakes that gave them six points," Edwards said. "The first one I didn't like the punt, but I didn't tell my helpers to get out of the way, and it hit his foot. Then the second one, when you fair-catch it you know nobody is going to hit you, but it just went through my arms.
"I caught over a hundred punts in camp, so there isn't any excuse anymore. I've got to do a better job."
While the Panthers defense kept it close, the Jets defense matched them by creating mismatches up front that the Panthers often didn't handle. Clausen moved the offense 41 yards and picked up three first downs despite some serious pressure on the potential game-winning drive, but that helped increase the team's totals to just 175 yards and nine first downs before the pressure got to Clausen on his interception.
"We had to rush everything because they blitzed almost every down," said Kenny Moore, who caught a game-best 26-yarder from Matt Moore on the third snap of the game. "There are things we have to work on. We'll watch film, and I'm sure we'll get it corrected by the season."
NOTES: Jets rookie Joe McKnight had the most electric play of the night, a weaving 67-yard return of a 58-yard punt by Jason Baker early in the fourth quarter. On the resulting first-and-goal, however, Chauncey Washington fumbled on a Mortty Ivy hit and Andre Neblett recovered. … Baker averaged 50.9 yards on nine punts, the second straight game he's been over 50. … The Panthers were without the services of 10 players: running back Jonathan Stewart, wide receiver Steve Smith, offensive tackle Jeff Otah, defensive ends Tyler Brayton and Hilee Taylor, linebackers Thomas Davis, Jamar Williams and Quinton Culberson, and safeties Sherrod Martin and Aaron Francisco.