The Big Headline
It all came down to the fourth quarter.
Jermaine Carter's punt block set up the Panthers with first-and-goal at the 5 and Carolina punched it in to make it a 23-20 ballgame.
James Bradberry then picked off Jared Goff's throw for Robert Woods, and the Panthers were suddenly rolling. But Carolina wen't three-and-out after the takeaway. That failure to capitalize was costly, as Los Angeles then proceeded to execute a 7-play TD drive, pushing the lead back to 10 with 6:37 left.
Then Cam Newton's pass for tight end Greg Olsen was picked off on the ensuing possession, setting up the Rams in Carolina territory.
Greg Zuerlein missed a 41-yard field attempt with 4:06 remaining though, giving the Panthers some hope. Christian McCaffrey ripped off some big runs and fullback Alex Armah leaped into the end zone to make it a 3-point game with 1:58 left.
But the onside kick went straight to Woods, giving Rams possession at midfield. The Panthers, with just one timeout at their disposal, were then put away.
Well designed play for Carolina's first TD
The first touchdown of the year for the Panthers came courtesy of running back Christian McCaffrey playing the role of quarterback. Newton shifted over the RB spot and McCaffrey took a direct snap before faking a handoff to Newton running untouched for an 8-yard score.
A terrific call from offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and one that cut the LA lead to six midway through the third quarter.
Two costly mistakes involving Moore
It was all looking so promising at the start. The Panthers were on the move after getting the ball first to start the game. Wide receiver DJ Moore was looking for some yards after the catch as Carolina was nearing the red zone. But Rams linebacker Cory Littleton punched the ball out of Moore's grasp from behind, and Littleton pounced on it at the LA 33-yard line.
Early in the second quarter, the Panthers lost another fumble when quarterback Cam Newton tried to connect with Moore on a quick screen. The pass traveled backward and was tipped by linebacker Samson Ebukam, making it a live ball. The Rams recovered at the Carolina 10-yard line, which essentially gifted them the game's first touchdown.
So much for all the 3-4 talk
The Panthers' base defense utilized a four-man front for the vast majority of the game.
Carolina did deploy an interesting 3-2-6 look in third-down situations, with Ross Cockrell and Javien Elliott serving as the additional defensive backs.
Gruesome Weddle injury
Really tough moment to watch in the second quarter when McCaffrey tried to leap over Rams safety Eric Weddle, and made contact with his head in the process. Weddle stayed down for a while and cameras showed he was bleeding heavily when he sat up.
McCaffrey was among those most concerned on the field. Weddle was carted off and did not return.