Final: Carolina 20, Jacksonville 9
It was a tough defensive battle in the sunshine state on Sunday afternoon as the Carolina Panthers (minus their star linebacker Luke Kuechly for a half) defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars after pitching a shutout in the second half.
The Panthers held a 10-9 lead at the end of the second quarter and came out in the third and made some plays on defense. The biggest play of the game came midway through said frame when Josh Norman capitalized on a foolish throw from quarterback Blake Bortles. He got his mitts on a dump pass to the flat to rookie T.J. Yeldon and was able to return it 28 yards to the house, giving Carolina a 17-9 lead at the time. In the fourth quarter, only up by one possession, Ron Rivera’s team was able to hold on to the ball for just over eight minutes and convert three of four third down opportunities to ice the game. Graham Gano added his second field goal of the contest to push the score to 20-9.
On the comeback try, Blake Bortles was pressured and threw an interception to Thomas Davis, although the referees missed a fairly blatant hands to the face on offensive lineman Sam Young, who was filling in for the injured Luke Joeckel. That being said, the Jaguars were unable to do a whole lot on the field versus the tough Carolina “D” coached up by Sean McDermott.
The big story coming out of this game has to be the status of Luke Kuechly. He left the game at the end of the second quarter after ducking his head on a collision with T.J. Yeldon during a two-minute drill. He failed the concussion tests conducted in the locker room and was banned from re-entering the game. If the all-pro middle linebacker were to miss significant time for the Panthers, it is safe to say that the club would likely suffer. However, A.J. Kline did a nice job filling in for him in this game, and Thomas Davis had himself a heck of an afternoon. He was able to notch seven solo tackles, sack Blake Bortles, and intercept a pass. His linebacking counterpart from Jacksonville in Paul Posluszny had an even better game. He made countless plays including eight tackles and showed some good hands in the second quarter by intercepting a laser pass from Cam Newton. The Jags did not lose this game because of their defense. It was their inept play on offense that cost them the contest.
So the Panthers (barring a possible Atlanta win on Monday night) will sit all alone at the top of the NFC South as they look to defend their division crown and go for their third straight title. Of course, without the leadership and on-field presence of Luke Kuechly, it could be hard for them to repeat.
- Obviously the big story from this game is the fact that Luke Kuechly left in the second quarter with a concussion. Before then, he was able to record seven tackles and a sack
- The Panthers, who were on the bad end of some drops by their wide receivers in the preseason, continued this trend on Sunday as there were quite a few drops on the field
- T.J. Yeldon had some nice downhill runs. Look for the Jaguars to use him more frequently in the coming weeks
- The Panthers showed dominance in the time of possession, much like they did a year ago, mainly due to an 8:03 drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a field goal, pushing it to a two-score game
- Blake Bortles made a few nice throws but was still victimized by some poor choices, including a horrible pass in the third quarter that was intercepted by Josh Norman for a touchdown
- The predominant “Luke” for Jacksonville was hurt in this game as well as Joeckel left the game in the third quarter due to an ankle injury
- New Jaguars kicker Jason Myers missed a field goal and an extra point in this game, both coming in the first half