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What We Learned: Panthers at Jaguars

NORMAN STARTING STRONG: Fans shuddered when developing shutdown corner Josh Norman suffered a concussion in the Panthers' final preseason game. They celebrated right along with him when Norman returned to force two turnovers in Carolina's regular season opener.

"First of all, thanks to God for allowing me to come out here and play this week. I didn't know if I was going to be able to play with the concussion and the protocol we had to go through," Norman said. "We've got to be more consistent, but when my chance came, I took it and I ran with it."


On Jacksonville's first possession of the second half, with Carolina clinging to a 10-9 lead, Norman diagnosed a pass in the flat intended for rookie running back T.J. Yeldon, broke hard and picked it off for an easy 30-yard touchdown.

"I just broke on it, caught the ball, made sure I had it and then said goodbye to him (quarterback Blake Bortles) and went on to the end zone," Norman said.

In the first half, with Jacksonville in the red zone and threatening to break a 3-3 tie, Norman forced a fumble on an Allen Hurns catch and recovered the ball.

"Josh Norman is a guy that we expect big things out of," linebacker Thomas Davis said.

KALIL WENT THE DISTANCE: Head coach Ron Rivera went into the game hoping center Ryan Kalil wouldn't have to play 100 percent of the snaps after sustaining a knee injury in the preseason. But that's exactly what Kalil had to do.

A knee injury suffered by rookie offensive tackle Daryl Williams on a field goal attempt in the first quarter changed the plan. Williams is the replacement for Mike Remmers at right tackle when Remmers shifts to center, but with Williams unavailable, the Panthers were forced to rely on Kalil for every snap.

"It was fine," Kalil said. "We just said we'd see how it felt, and if it felt fine we'd keep going. I didn't have any problems, so I just played.

"But it was tough losing Daryl, such a good, young talent who is getting better every week. I think they would have liked to see him in the game a little bit, but those things happen."

Rivera didn't have an update on Williams other than saying he injured his knee. As for Kalil and his full day that came after a knee injury that sidelined him for the last two preseason games?

"He is going to be sore," Rivera said. "We'll have to pamper him a little bit. But knowing Ryan, he'll be ready to roll."

WRS UP AND DOWN: The wide receivers were the most talked about group entering the opener, and there was some good, some bad against the Jaguars.

Veteran Jerricho Cotchery was stellar, hauling in a 7-yard touchdown in the second quarter and battling with tremendous effort for first-down yardage on a critical third down in the fourth quarter.

"Jerricho just played big today," quarterback Cam Newton said.

Wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr., who was targeted a team-high seven times, finished with two receptions for 54 yards. He could have added another catch for 35 more yards and a touchdown had he held onto a pass from Newton in the first quarter. Ginn was wide open down the right sideline, but the ball slipped through his hands.

"It's all part of football," Ginn said. "First game, we got a victory and that's the most important. Just have to go back and work on our craft."

PASS RUSH CAME ALIVE LATE: The Panthers had difficulty generating a consistent pass rush in the first half, when the lone sack belonged to linebacker Luke Kuechly on a blitz. But in the second half, the Jaguars were the ones with a difficult situation on their hands.

Defensive ends Mario Addison and Charles Johnson combined for three sacks in the second half, and linebacker Thomas Davis added one.

"We started slow," Addison said. "As a D-line, we knew we were better than how we were playing. We picked it up. We did what we had to do."

Addison had two sacks and joked that he could have had a third if Davis hadn't intercepted a second-half pass. The play could have been ruled a forward fumble rather than an interception if Davis hadn't secured it before it hit the turf.

"Mario Addison did a great job of rushing the quarterback and tipping the ball, and I did a good job of making sure I got my hands under it," Davis said.

FANS MADE PRESENCE FELT: Hordes of Panthers fans made the trip to Jacksonville and the players, namely Newton, took notice.

Newton encouraged the large contingent to make some noise late in the fourth quarter when Carolina had wrapped things up.

"Big shout out goes to our fans," Newton said. "I think they were a difference maker today."

View game action photos from Carolina's 20-9 win over Jacksonville.

Senior writer Bryan Strickland and staff writer Max Henson contributed to this report.

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