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Offense finds rhythm, produces efficient effort


CHARLOTTE – It was the kind of start that has admittedly given the Panthers' offense trouble.

The kind where early mistakes must be overcome quickly.

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was the recipient of a giftwrapped game-opening pick-six, but the game was far from over.

St. Louis was intent on quite literally fighting their way back, and after Munnerlyn's touchdown, the Panthers took a sack, went three-and-out, and then gave up a safety.

When fullback Mike Tolbert was tackled in the end zone, the score was 7-2 and the early momentum was gone. Carolina's offense needed to respond appropriately.

"There's been games in the past where a sack on our second play of the game and a safety on the second drive of the game might have spelled trouble for us offensively," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "But we've matured and we moved on from that."

The Panthers put the early offensive miscues behind them and proceeded to play efficient, turnover-free football in a 30-15 victory.

"I was really proud of everybody on the offense," Gross said. "We kept working and kept grinding."

Gross and the offensive line gave up just two sacks to a Rams team that led the league in that category a year ago.

Quarterback Cam Newton repaid that solid pass protection by completing 15-of-17 passes and all eight of his second half attempts. Newton, who had a career-high quarterback rating of 143.4 versus Minnesota last week, finished with a gaudy 136.3 rating and 204 passing yards against the Rams.

"I'm not sure why we sputtered at first but I do know this – once (offensive coordinator) Mike Shula got into a rhythm with his guys and had a real good feel for the offensive side, the play calling was outstanding," head coach Ron Rivera said. "They knew we wanted to run the ball. They loaded up the box a couple times. We had to make something happen and we did."

It wasn't an explosive offensive display by any means, with Carolina averaging 4.9 yards per play and totaling 282 yards, but it was effective.

"I don't know if our stats were flashy today," tight end Greg Olsen said. "But we kept control of the ball, we moved the clock, moved the chains. Overall, I think we played a pretty solid offensive game.

"We were able to have a pretty significant win at home by a pretty good margin."

And that has the 3-3 Panthers believing in the momentum they've built with Thursday Night Football against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers up next.

"I really do (believe momentum is building), but I don't want to stunt any growth for us right now," Newton said. "Our preparation leading up into this week is to put ourselves in a situation where we can be 4-3 on Thursday."

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