CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 09: Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates a touchdown by Carolina Panthers fullback Alex Armah (40) in the second half on September 09, 2018 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte,NC. (Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With the first week of the 2018 NFL season in the books, let’s look back at what can be taken away from the Carolina Panthers week one win over the Dallas Cowboys. In this game, Cam Newton controlled the offense and Carolina’s defense proved once again that they are one of the most solid defenses in the NFL.

The Carolina Panthers Week One win over the Dallas Cowboys

The Panthers game plan seemed to be similar to the style of play they had during the 2015 season when they finished 15-1. Instead of trying to spread the ball around like last year to avoid injuries to Newton, they gave Newton complete control of the offense. Cam Newton threw the ball 30 times and led the team in rushing attempts and rushing yards. As the best playmaker on the offense, the Panthers are the most dangerous when Cam has the ball in his hands. A point of emphasis this off-season Cam’s throwing accuracy and his fundamentals when throwing the ball. He completed 65% of his passes which was above his career percentage of 58%.

Christian McCaffrey led the team in receiving yards and had the second most rushes with ten. C.J Anderson also made his team debut and received a fair amount of carries. He was a key pickup in the Panther’s off-season and he quickly made an impact on the game. Norv Turner made sure to keep the Panthers offense unpredictable by splitting carries between McCaffrey and Anderson evenly.

The offense called 26 passing plays and 32 rushing plays which formed a nice balance.  This allowed Carolina to see which plays were more successful and prevented them from being too predictable.

Even though the Panthers came out with a win, it did not come without its faults. They only completed 33% of their third-down conversions. Furthermore, they only converted two of their five attempts (40%) in the red zone. If the Panther’s do not find a way to convert in critical situations, this could cause trouble in future games. A key drive was in the first quarter where McCaffrey fumbled on a 3rd and two near the goal line. Not only does this prevent the Panthers from scoring in the red zone, it also hurts their 3rd down efficiency.

The Panthers defense did an amazing job containing Ezekiel Elliot for the majority of the game. Led by Luke Kuechly, the defense was able to keep Cowboys under 250 yards of offense. Furthermore, they held the Dallas Cowboys scoreless through the first three quarters. They kept the Cowboys to an 18% conversion rate on 3rd down and only allowed them to enter the red zone once.

There were few, if any, cons for the Panther’s defense this game. They sacked Dak Prescott 6 times and forced a fumble to clinch the game. Luke Kuechly went down late in the 4th quarter with a lower-body injury but he returned for the next series.

In a defensive-dominated contest, the Panthers proved once again that they can rely on their defense. With a retooled offense, scoring should be no problem and efficiency on both ends should now be the focus.

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