CHARLOTTE – To be fair, both teams collectively said there is a lot to clean up following their Week 1 performance.
But it feels a lot better to say that after a win. Just ask Rams head coach Sean McVay.
“Ultimately,” McVay said, “it’s about finding a way to get a win. We did that as a team and that’s the goal.”
The Panthers, obviously, did not find a way in their 30-27 loss to Los Angeles to open the 2019 season.
“We should have been better than that. We had a good week of practices. I’m just disappointed we missed a couple of things We got to be sharper,” head coach Ron Rivera said.
“(We) played against a very good football team, the defending NFC champs. To battle these guys to the bitter ends talks about what are our opportunities can be, who we can be as a football team.”
Despite all the mistakes – the costly pair of first half fumbles, the penalties, the missed layups, the unfortunate headset malfunction – the Panthers were in position to take the lead against the Rams in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s season opener.
Linebacker Jermaine Carter blocked a punt deep in Los Angeles territory early on in the fourth quarter, setting up a 2-yard touchdown run for running back Christian McCaffrey to cut the deficit to 23-20.
Then cornerback James Bradberry picked off Jared Goff’s pass for wide receiver Robert Woods on a deep dig at the Carolina 29-yard line. Bank of America Stadium was rocking and the game was turning.
Until the mistakes crept back in.
“When we create those opportunities we have to go ahead and kill it. Can’t play around and give the momentum back,” rookie edge rusher Brian Burns said. “We had it. It was ours to take and we gave it back.”
Following Bradberry’s interception, the Panthers went three-and-out. It was particularly deflating because quarterback Cam Newton overshot a pass down the sideline to wide receiver Curtis Samuel, who was in the clear for a big gain.
The Rams responded with a seven-play touchdown drive to push their lead back to 10.
When the Panthers got the ball back, Newton was intercepted by Rams linebacker Cory Littleton.
A late touchdown run from fullback Alex Armah made it a three-point game, but it was too little too late.
When you lose by three points, all those mistakes throughout the course of the game become magnified. Winning ugly is one thing. Losing sloppily is another.
“Played really bad in the first half. Miscommunication, turnovers – played about as poorly as we could have imagined,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “Against good teams it’s hard to overcome that stuff.”
On this day, against one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, the Panthers couldn’t overcome those things.
“We have a really good team, we really do. We gave the NFC champs all they wanted,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “We just made too many."