The Rivera Report: Evaluating the opener

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Questions about Cam

Quarterback Cam Newton's longest completion against the Rams went for 17 yards. He finished with just three rushing attempts for -2 yards, a career low.

On Monday, head coach Ron Rivera was asked if those numbers – the lack of deep throws and lack of rushing attempts – are an indication of the new normal for Newton.

“I think that’s more about the decisions he makes out there as the quarterback, the guy with the ball in his hands who dictates where the ball goes, more so than anything else,” Rivera said.

After the game, Newton said his body felt great. Rivera said he hasn’t seen or heard anything that suggests otherwise.

It’s one game, and there are a lot of factors that play into a quarterback deciding whether or now to throw deep (coverage, protection, etc.). And as the old saying goes, it may have been more about taking what the defense was giving.

As for the running (or lack thereof), it's worth noting that Newton is coming off a left midfoot sprain – an injury he suffered during the preseason.

Look, we know this: everyone will be waiting to anxiously to see how Newton’s performs in Week 2.

McCoy getting used to the rotation

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy played 52 percent of the snaps in the opener, which he acknowledged is a lower total than he’s used to.

“I’m used to playing a lot and getting a lot more snaps than that,” McCoy said. “It’s tough to get a rhythm going. But it keeps you fresh. It’s opening day, we’ll get used to it.”

Rivera and the defensive coaches want to keep the linemen fresh, but obviously it’s important to have your best players on the field as much as possible. It’s a balancing act that the Panthers will continue to work though.

“That’s something we’ve got to figure out too, as well to be honest. Again, you want to try and keep these guys fresh as much as you can,” Rivera said. “(McCoy) is an impact player. We’ve got to get guys like that on the field the majority of the time.

“The key is just he’s going to have to learn the rhythm and get used to it,” Rivera added. “It’s a difficult thing for guys that are used to playing 65, 70 snaps a game, understanding the rhythm is that it’s really about being ready to play when it gets to the crunch time, and again we’re trying to develop that with him.”

CMC never came off the field

Speaking of snap counts, running back Christian McCaffrey played 100 percent of the snaps offensively.

He was far and away the most productive player on the field, rushing for 128 yards and two scores in addition to catching 10 passes for 81 yards.

"It’s tough to take him out," Rivera said of McCaffrey's workload. "The young man doesn’t want to come out. We have to think about certain things, but when he’s playing the way he is you’ve got to keep the rhythm going."

Assessing Burns’ regular season debut

Rookie edge rusher Brian Burns was a starter in his debut, recording two quarterback hits and a tackle for loss.

He was active throughout, and came agonizingly close to notching his first career regular season sack.

“I was very close a lot of times. I was a couple inches from a strip-sack,” Burns said. “Those hurt, but it will come.”

Here’s what Rivera had to say about the first-round pick:

“He did some really good things. He gave us a little extra push, a little quickness off the edge,” Rivera said. “He read a play very nicely, made a nice tackle for loss. A little undisciplined a couple of times in his rush lanes, a little undisciplined a couple times in his run gap responsibilities. I think that’s things we’re going to get with young guys and giving young guys opportunities to get on the football field and they have to understand how important it is to do their job. As far as I was concerned he really did a heck of a job and had a pretty doggone good day for a rookie starting out there.”

Good time for TNF?

Coaches and players aren’t exactly big fans of Thursday night games and the short week of preparation that comes with them, but the schedule makers did Carolina a solid this year.

A Thursday night game in Week 2, at home, is pretty ideal all things considered.

“I think it is, because you’re still relatively fresh coming off of training camp,” Rivera said. “You play your first game and it is a quick turnaround, but I think if you’re going to do it, now is the time to do it.”

Take a look at the best pictures from arrivals, pre-game, locker room, in-game and post-game action from Sunday's season opener against the Rams.

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