Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Big Test for Panthers in Season Opener

Sharon Thorsland
September 05, 2019 - 3:22 pm

It's finally time for some football! The Panthers open the season Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, facing the LA Rams and their explosive offense.

The defending NFC champs averaged nearly 33 points a game last season, although they managed just a field goal in their 13-3 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

The Rams are expected to be really good again, and they boast some of the top talent in the league.

Of course, the Panthers have plenty of their own talent, starting with quarterback Cam Newton, who is once again healthy and is excited to get back on the field.

“Really looking forward to it, going against a great team with a very strong front seven, very talented secondary,” said Newton. “And then opening up at home - it means a lot for us, for me. I'm excited for it.”

The Rams offense features fourth-year quarterback Jared Goff, who threw 32 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions last season.

He's got some dynamic receivers in Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp, who's back from a torn ACL.  Cooks and Woods both had over 1200 yards last season, and Kupp was well on his way to that before the injury.

But the key weapon on this Rams offense is Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley.  In spite of a dinged up knee that kept him out of the final two weeks of the season, Gurley rushed for more than 1200 yards and added 580 more through the air, scoring a league-leading 21 touchdowns.  

“He's a big back, runs extremely, extremely hard, and is really strong and very elusive, he's got a lot of speed,” said Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.  “You know, he can do anything. He's really, really, really good.”

Of course, the Panthers have their own really good running back in Christian McCaffrey.  And they've also got Newton, who's once again healthy after bouncing back from off-season shoulder surgery and a sprained foot this preseason.  

“Great player,” said Rams coach Sean McVay. “Can affect the game both passing the football and obviously as a runner. Anytime that you have that dual-threat...who can make plays with his arm, with his legs, that's an extremely challenging thing for defense – and he's a great player.”

Newton will have his work cut for him going against defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

The two-time defensive player of the year is a quarterback's nightmare, he racked up 20 and a half sacks last season.  

The Rams also added a pair of All-Pros to their defense in safety Eric Weddle and former Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.  

And of course, there is veteran cornerback Aquib Talib, who has been a longtime Panther nemesis.

This can be a statement game for the Panthers.  It's the season opener, it's at home, and it's against the defending NFC champs. 

And they're ready. “For us to come in here and get this W at home, versus a Super Bowl-caliber, championship team, it's big,” said safety Tre Boston.  “To win this one would say a lot.  We'll get the job done.”

Comments ()