It looked like the Panthers had the upper hand heading into their match-up with the Bengals on Thursday night, but it certainly didn't end as they expected. They were handed a 24-13 smackdown that reinforced worries which were raised after last week's loss in Miami.
Let's start with the quarterback play. Cam Newton was inaccurate for most of the night. He completed only six of his 19 passes and was once again throwing off his back foot on numerous occasions. Out of all of his film so far, this would certainly fall under "most discouraging."
While Newton underwhelmed through the air, he was more than impressive on the ground, stringing together two big runs, one of which was a touchdown run where he put his signature on the play by extending the ball across the goal line just when you thought he might come up short.
Newton did rocket a pass right through the heart of the defense for a big gain, but it was called back due to a holding penalty. That brings me to the sticking point I'll be coming away with on the offensive side of the ball. Jeff Otah is sorely missed.
The Panthers' hopes of running right are bleak without their mauling tackle. The whole right side is a mess without Geoff Schwartz and Otah healthy. Once they return and Newton gets up to speed, I'd expect a big boost in production and confidence from the offense.
That's about all I have to say for the offense. Here are just a few other notes that I have:
-Brandon LaFell was not impressive. It seems he's behind on the playbook and hasn't grasped the importance of route running yet.
-Travelle Wharton consistently struggled on down-blocks, but also had some impressive finishes.
-Steve Smith did not look like a star out there. He wasn't involved as much as you'd expect, but he has been a little tentative in his first game action since suffering a hand injury in training camp.
-The tight ends did well for the most part. Greg Olsen needs to get his head around a little quicker on some deep routes, but otherwise, I saw him and Olsen open more than any other receiver.