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Rapid reactions: Panthers hang on to beat Jets in season opener


CHARLOTTE — The offensive numbers looked nice, and considering the people involved, they were a welcome sight for the Panthers.

But a defense that was on the field for a lot of snaps in the opener did just enough to help deliver a win.

The Panthers beat the Jets 19-14 Sunday, a significant win in the season opener for a lot of reasons.

There will be plenty of focus on Sam Darnold's eventual revenge against his first team, and Christian McCaffrey's return after a season lost to injury.

But the way the Panthers controlled the Jets early was eye-opening, keeping the pressure on Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and continuing a preseason trend of creating turnovers. They also allowed just 4-of-13 third down conversions, fixing one of last year's biggest problems (they were 31st in the league in that category last year).

It wasn't unlike many of the days Darnold endured with the Jets, when a lack of protection and weapons around him led to his undoing. They changed quarterbacks, but not results.

The Panthers held the Jets to 252 total yards, just 82 of them coming in the first half. Wilson got hot late and made things interesting, but by that point, the Panthers had built enough cushion to get by.

The Panthers finished the day with six sacks, an interception by Shaq Thompson, a forced fumble by Haason Reddick, and 10 quarterback hits.

Again, it was against a Jets team that isn't nearly as strong up front as next week's opponent (the Saints), but as the Panthers settle into themselves on offense, it was what they needed.

— That said, Darnold was quite good.

He finished the day 24-of-35 for 279 yards, with a 57-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson and a rushing touchdown of his own.

And McCaffrey was, as expected, the bell cow back.

He had 187 yards from scrimmage on 30 touches.

— There were two fruitless trips to the red zone early, and that's worth being aware of, if not downright concerned.

Also of note was the kicking situation, with Ryan Santoso missing an extra point. They only owe the Giants a seventh-round pick to complete the preseason trade if Santoso is on the roster next week. If not, it was a free trial. Santoso did make both of his field goal attempts, a 22-yarder and a 29-yarder.

— The Panthers' offensive line held up exceptionally well in the first half, as they didn't allow a sack and Darnold was only hit three times. The Jets dialed up more pressure in the second half and got home, but for a group that has been under scrutiny all offseason, it was a solid showing against a Jets team with some defensive line talent.

— The Panthers have an injury to worry about after this one.

Nickel back Myles Hartsfield left the game with a wrist injury and did not return.

He was replacing the suspended (for one more game) A.J. Bouye, so they might need to adjust next week against the Saints if Hartsfield can't come back.

Defensive coordinator Phil Snow said last week they've looked at safety Juston Burris, cornerback Jaycee Horn, and safety Sean Chandler at nickel during camp.

View in-game action photos of Carolina's season opener against the Jets.

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