The Carolina Panthers kicked off the 2015 Pre-Season with a matchup against The Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. last Friday night.
The Panthers are led by fifth year head coach by “Riverboat” Ron Rivera. The Carolina faithful are very excited about the team this upcoming season.
All eyes will be on the new additions to the team such as cornerback Charles Tillman, receiver Ted Ginn Jr., and left tackle Michael Oher who each had solid games in their 2015 debuts.
The 2015 draft picks will also be evaluated heavy this preseason as they fight for a spot on the 53 man roster to start the season. Linebacker Shaq Thompson, receiver Devin Funchess, and offensive lineman Darryl Williams are the main rookies that are being focused on.
On the field and among the rookies, Funchess showed promise as he finished with two catches for 53 yards in limited time on Friday.
To begin, Carolina deferred the opening coin toss to take the field on defense first. The Bills’ passer Matt Cassel got off to a fast start, passing the ball down the field on the Panthers first defense led by Captains Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis who came out rusty, but finished strong in their performance.
The Bills drove the field deep into Panthers territory but were eventually stopped by the defense on third down to bring quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina offense on the field. Tillman would lead the team with three tackles on that first series on defense.
The much maligned offensive line protected Newton well, giving him plenty of time to throw and get some open looks. Yet, Newton struggled early, completing none of his passes on his first drive, leading to a three and out on the first series.
The stout Panthers’ defense again stopped the Bills a second time on third down, but they got into Panthers territory again and attempted a late first quarter field goal that was missed.
The Panthers went three and out on their second series on offense leaving the score deadlocked at zero at the end of the first quarter.
While the defense played well after a rough start, penalties did hurt the defense early in the second quarter. A horse collier and late hit out of bounds on QB Matt Cassel led to the Bills scoring the first touchdown of the game.
Newton and the Panthers passing attack did eventually return, as the quarterback showed great chemistry with receiver Kelvin Benjamin a number of times, with one pass and catch going for a score.
Unfortunately, Carolina’s second team defense allowed the Bills second team offense to drive 90 yards in 13 plays for them to score a second time to take the lead.
On the offensive side of the ball, the second team led by Derek Anderson played very well in the second quarter leading the offense down the field into field goal range. Graham Gano nailed the field goal right before halftime making the score 10 to 14.
In all, the Panthers, like almost all teams in their first preseason game, looked somewhat rusty. Yet, Newton and the Kuechly-led defense did eventually settle down to play good football.But, if anything were to happen to Kuechly or any of the other starters on defense, the team may be in trouble as the second team defense did not contribute much. Carolina would win 25 to 24 on a late field goal.
If I were to name a player of the game, I would select Kelvin Benjamin who finished with three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers come back home to take on the Dolphins next Saturday in Charlotte at 7:00 p.m.