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Panthers Gut Out Season Opening Win Over Jets

Carolina starts the season off with a win.

CHARLOTTE, NC - The Panthers and Jets used the first quarter to feel each other out, ending the first stanza with no score.

On the opening drive, Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was introduced to Panthers defensive end Brian Burns who registered his first sack of the season to force a 3rd and 23. A quick throw out to the perimeter forced the Jets to punt. Punter Braden Mann injured his leg when Chuba Hubbard was dragged into him by a Jets blocker. Kicker Matt Ammerndola was thrown in to handle the punting responsibilities. 

The Panthers were able to move the ball on each of their first three possessions but couldn't come away with any points. Early in the 2nd quarter, Sam Darnold connected with DJ Moore on a pair of 26-yard gains to push the Panthers into the red zone. On 4th and 1, the Panthers elected to go for it and as Darnold was going to hand the ball off to McCaffrey, fullback Giovanni Ricci's elbow brushed the ball out of Darnold's hands causing a fumble. 

Fortunately, the Panthers got another crack at the red zone after Zach Wilson threw an interception to linebacker Shaq Thompson who ran it back to the New York 32. Darnold dumped off a couple of passes to McCaffrey for a combined 26 yards but the Jets' defense locked things down and forced a field goal. Ryan Santoso notched the first points of the game by hitting a 22-yard kick.

New York moved the ball into Panthers' territory once again but turned the ball over on downs thanks to a tackle for loss by Yetur Gross-Matos on 4th and 1. On the very next play, Darnold hit a 57-yard pass to Robby Anderson on a post route for a touchdown - Darnold's first as a Panther. However, Santoso missed the extra point. 

Darnold went back to the quick passing game of checking the ball down to McCaffrey and it worked wonders as the Jets were getting pressure on the pocket. McCaffrey had three catches for 40 yards on the drive and that set up a five-yard touchdown scamper from Darnold with 35 seconds to go in the first half. Carolina took a 16-0 lead into the locker room.

It took nearly three before we saw the Jets get their first points on the board but Zach Wilson helped lead the offense down the field and tossed his first career touchdown pass to a wide-open Corey Davis from 22 yards out. New York head coach Robert Saleh chose to go for the two-point conversion and converted on a Wilson keeper.

The Panthers methodically worked their way down the field but once again, stalled out in the red zone. A screen pass to Terrace Marshall on 3rd down got the ball about a yard shy of the sticks. Initially, Rhule left the offense on the field but it was to try and draw the Jets offsides. The Jets stayed put and Ryan Santoso nailed a 29-yard field goal to make it a 19-8 game. The drive took nearly eight minutes off the clock.

New York had to respond, and they did. Wilson completed a 25-yard pass to Braxton Berrios on 4th & 8 to keep the Jets in the game and then eventually threw a 12-yard touchdown to Corey Davis. New York went for two to make it a three-point game but Wilson’s pass fell incomplete. New York’s onside kick attempt also failed, which allowed the Panthers to run out the clock and earn the win, 19-14.

The Panthers will return home to Bank of America Stadium next Sunday and will host divisional rival, New Orleans. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. EST.

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