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Rapid Reactions: Carolina opens the season with 34-30 loss to Las Vegas

Raiders break up pass intended for Christan McCaffrey

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers took a fourth-quarter lead against the Raiders but couldn't hold it, falling 34-30 to start the 2020 season.

Here are a few rapid reactions from the contest:

BACK-AND-FORTH FOURTH

The Panthers entered the fourth quarter down, 27-15, but scored 15 straight points to take a 30-27 lead.

On the fourth quarter's opening play, running back Christian McCaffrey caught a 16-yard pass on third-and-14 to move the chains. A few plays later, the running back took a pitch to the right for a 3-yard touchdown, punctuated by a big spike in the end zone.

The defense then did its job, forcing the Raiders' first punt since their opening drive. From there, it took the Panthers just two plays to jump in front.

On second-and-8 from the Carolina 25, wideout Robby Anderson used a double move to sprint past rookie cornerback Damon Arnette. Teddy Bridgewater hit the wide-open receiver, and Anderson took it the rest of the way for a 75-yard scoring strike. Bridgewater connected with Anderson again for a two-point conversion, giving Carolina a three-point lead.

But the Panthers could not keep running back Josh Jacobs out of the end zone. The second-year pro ran in his third touchdown of the day, this time from 6 yards out, to put the visitors back up, 34-30.

After getting the ball back with four minutes to go, the Panthers traveled into Las Vegas territory but could not score. Carolina did not pass on the possession, giving four handoffs to McCaffrey to bring up fourth-and-1 on the Las Vegas' 46. Fullback Alex Armah took the handoff but was stuffed for no gain, turning the ball over on downs with 1:11 left.

Carolina got the ball back with eight seconds left at its own 27 but did not have enough time to threaten for a game-winning score.

THIRD QUARTER WOES

While the Panthers eventually mounted a comeback, the game turned in the third quarter.

After not being flagged at all in the first half, Carolina was called for an illegal double-team block and started its opening drive of the second half on its own 11. Following a three-and-out, Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow returned Joseph Charlton's first punt of the day 27 yards to the Las Vegas' 49 — giving Carolina consecutive poor special teams plays.

While quarterback Derek Carr's intentional grounding penalty helped set the Panthers' defense up for a third-and-21, Carr completed a 15-yard pass to running back Jalen Richard that led to a Daniel Carlson 54-yard field goal.

Bridgewater was sacked on the ensuing drive for the first time en route to a second consecutive three-and-out.

On the punt, running back Trenton Cannon got flagged for going out of bounds and not immediately coming back in. The 15-yard penalty gave the Raiders favorable field position, and they took advantage. Jacobs' 7-yard touchdown gave Las Vegas a 27-15 lead.

To top it off, late in the third quarter, wide receiver DJ Moore was flagged for a taunting penalty after an incomplete pass in the end zone. Moore stuck his finger in defensive back Lamarcus Joyner's face to move the Panthers back 15 yards.

EARLY ROOKIE IMPACT

The Panthers will be relying on rookies throughout the season, and a couple made impact plays to hold Las Vegas to a field goal in the second quarter.

On first-and-goal at Carolina's 6-yard line, defensive tackle Derrick Brown brought down running back Josh Jacobs for a 1-yard loss. Safety Jeremy Chinn then showed his speed, bringing down running back Devontae Booker for a short 3-yard gain on a swing pass to the right. On third down, linebacker Shaq Thompson — not a rookie — pushed tight end Jason Witten out of bounds after a 2-yard gain.

But those are the kinds of plays the Panthers will need out of their rookies — and defense — to win games this year.

DONTE JACKSON INJURY

The Panthers were already thin at cornerback, and their depth got tested early when Donte Jackson left the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter. Claimed off waivers a week ago, Rasul Douglas came in to replace Jackson for the rest of the game, opposite rookie Troy Pride Jr.

Pride was in coverage on Raiders wide receiver Nelson Agholor's 23-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. The rookie was in a decent position, but Carr's throw was better to hit Agholor as he crossed the goal line.

AN ODD SCENE

It's weird to watch football in an empty stadium. That shouldn't shock anyone, but seeing it in person is about as strange as you'd think. When there was no music, it was just about silent. The piped-in crowd noise provided some ambient sounds, but there wasn't much to hear.

Both sidelines were animated throughout the contest, though. It was easy to hear the sidelines clapping and encouraging players on the field after every play from the press level.

But there's no doubt being in an empty stadium watching competitive football is an eerie sensation.

View game action photos from the Panthers-Raiders game in Week 1.

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