- The Carolina Panthers wasted no time in this one, jumping out to a 17-0 lead halfway through the first quarter. The quick start was fueled by Cam Newton, who went 5-5 for 56 yards and 24 rushing yards on the opening drive. He finished it off with a beautifully thrown pass to Kelvin Benjamin for a touchdown.
- It was the defense’s turn that forced two turnovers on the Saints first three plays of the game. First it was cornerback Josh Norman who poked the ball out to force the fumble, which was recovered by Colin Cole. The next series for the Saints Drew Brees was picked off by rookie Bene Benwikere, who was making his first career start.
- The Panthers offensive line has had a strong first half as well, both in run and pass protection. The Panthers had over 100 yards rushing in the first half and Newton was not sacked or had a QB hit. The fact that the Panthers are winning in the trenches is a big reason for their success in the first half.
- It wasn’t all perfect though as the Panthers receivers had two drops on third downs that ended Panthers drives. The first came in the first quarter when Newton went deep down the left side to Kelvin Benjamin who let the pass go right through his arms. The next drive Newton went underneath to Mike Tolbert, who let the ball go right through his hands.
- The other glaring negative from the first half was the Panthers punt coverage, which has struggled all season. Saints punt returner Jalen Saunders on his two punt returns is averaging 31 yards per return. These type of plays can be huge momentum changers and is something the Panthers have to find a way to manage. At this rate, the coaching staff may want to instruct Brad Nortman to just kick the ball out of bounds to ensure the Saints don’t have a chance to return it.
Panthers vs. Saints: Halftime Notes
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