What We Learned: Panthers at Titans

OFFENSE HAMMERED HOME VICTORY: For several weeks, the Panthers have talked about closing out games. They put the words to action Sunday against the Titans.

"I thought our team and our offense grew a lot today," right tackle Mike Remmers said.

Carolina, leading 20-10, started a drive at its own 36-yard line with 7:26 remaining in the game.

After quarterback Cam Newton completed an 18-yard pass to tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers ran the ball nine consecutive times and ran 4:44 off the clock. Newton finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach.

"Really important," center Ryan Kalil said of the game-sealing drive. "One of the things we've been lacking is a really good four-minute drive. A couple of these games we should have been able to close out and we didn't. I thought that was a really good job on our part, and we have to take that into some games moving forward."

NEWTON AND OLSEN LOCKED IN: Newton and Olsen were almost perfect Sunday, and they were perfectly in sync.

Olsen caught all eight of his targets. Most of them were right on target, though the last one featured the latest of several remarkable one-handed grabs by Olsen this season.

"I don't want to do that, I don't try to do that. Sometimes, that's just a reaction to the situation and trying to make the catch any way you have to," Olsen said. "Today, everything was right on the money. For the most part, everything was right at your hands.

"We've completed a lot of passes over the years and have a pretty good feel for what each other is looking for. We see things through the same set of eyes a lot of times."

Newton gave Olsen a hard time a couple of times earlier in the season when Olsen just missed out on touchdowns, and it happened again Sunday on a 5-yard reception on which Olsen was brought down inside the 1.

"If the goal line started at the one," Olsen said, "I'd probably be leading the NFL in touchdowns."

COLEMAN EARNED SOME RETRIBUTION: Earlier this week in practice, secondary coach Steve Wilks poked some fun at safety Kurt Coleman.

Coleman, who works with the JUGS machine before every practice, dropped an interception during the win over the Packers (though Coleman maintains he secured the catch), and Wilks reminded him about it as he passed by.

During Sunday's win over the Titans, Coleman made up for it by intercepting Marcus Mariota's third-down pass for wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham against the sideline midway through the third quarter of a four-point game.

"I'm just glad I didn't get gypped again this week," Coleman joked. "We've talked about it, and (Wilks) gave me a missed opportunity on my grading sheet."

No missed opportunity this time.

Coleman's interception – the game's first takeaway – lifted a defense that proved to be too much for the Titans in the second half.

"It was a momentum switch," cornerback Josh Norman said. "I think Mariota got a little flustered back there."

GINN'S STILL GOT IT: Ted Ginn, Jr. certainly was disappointed that his electrifying 87-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first half was stricken from the record by a flag, but he wasn't devastated because of the final outcome.

"It's not about me; it's about the Panthers," Ginn said. "The biggest thing was that I put the offense in good field position for the day."

Even with the reversal, Ginn made a big impact on field position, setting up Graham Gano's two second-half field goals that finally gave Carolina a two-score cushion with returns of 15 and 23 yards. They weren't quite highlight-worthy like the one that was called back, but they were important and reestablished Ginn as a valuable weapon on special teams.

"I was trying to get back to making a play, just trying to do whatever I could," Ginn said. "I saw the flag after I threw the ball (in celebration) and turned around. The first thing I do is scan the field and look for a flag, and when I saw it, I was pretty upset. But at the end of the day, we got the victory."

CAROLINA CONTROLLED FIELD POSITION: Only two the Titans' possessions began ahead of their 20-yard line, one of which started at the 50 with just four seconds to go before halftime.

That meant a day full of very long fields, and that played right into Carolina's hands.

"I thought special teams did a nice job," head coach Ron Rivera said.

Punter Brad Nortman had a strong outing, with two punts fair caught by Dexter McCluster inside the 20 and the other two out of bounds.

Nortman's best effort came from his own end zone thanks to a very fortunate bounce that turned a short punt into a 63-yarder. The ball trickled down the sideline and went out at the Tennessee 29-yard line to completely flip the field early in the second half.

PANTHERS PLEASED BY SUPPORT: Between the color schemes and the Panthers screams, Sunday's game could have been mistaken for a Carolina home game at times.

"A lot of the crowd was our crowd," Olsen said. "It was pretty loud at times when we were on defense and when the offense made a good play."

It certainly felt like a home game when the final seconds ticked away and Newton ran around portions of the stadium offering high-fives to fans in the front row.

"It was awesome. I absolutely loved it," Remmers said. "I love seeing all the Panthers fans out there cheering for us. It means the world. It felt almost like a home game."

View game action photos from Carolina's 27-10 win over Tennessee.


Staff writer Max Henson and senior writer Bryan Strickland contributed to this report.

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