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Bolts Can't Overcome Slow Start
Scoring 21 points in an NFL game would constitute a quality offensive performance.
That's exactly what the Carolina Panthers did in the first quarter alone en route to defeating the San Diego Chargers 31-7 on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.
On the opening drive of the game, quarterback Cam Newton drove the Panthers offense 80-yards in 13 plays, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by fullback Mike Tolbert.
But Tolbert, who spent the previous four years with the Chargers, was not done.
After a fumble by quarterback Philip Rivers was recovered by the Panthers on the San Diego 21-yard line, Tolbert gave Carolina a 14-0 lead with another one-yard touchdown, his second of the quarter.
After the Chargers went three-and-out on their next possession, Newton and the Carolina offense took advantage and extended their lead. A short pass by Newton was tipped by Chargers outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, but ended up in the hands of running back DeAngelo Williams. The Panthers running back ran it 45-yards for the touchdown to put the Panthers up 21-0 after 15 minutes of play.
“We were just trying to make a play, find some juice and get back into it,” Johnson said. “We just stayed flat for way too long. By the time we found any life, it was too late. They got us on our heels early. They threw some curve balls at us today. We thought we were ready. We had a great week of preparation. I didn’t know going into this game how complex their offense was, especially with (Newton) at quarterback. For all the stuff we’ve been working on, they threw ten new things at us.”
Johnson wasn’t the only member of the defense who said the Panthers fast start took the air out of the Chargers
“It’s obviously deflating when you’re (down) 21 points, but I don’t think there was a man out there that was giving up in anyway,” strong safety Corey Lynch said.
The 21-0 lead gave the Panthers confidence and set the tone for the rest of the game, forcing the Chargers to play catch-up the rest of the way. Despite being the Chargers’ strong point in recent week, the defense was unable to slow down the versatility of the Carolina offense.
“As we got ready for this game on Wednesday, the two things I emphasized to our guys were that this team is playing at an awfully high level offensively – they jumped up on Atlanta last week 23-0 at halftime – obviously that, I think, got our guys attention,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said. “The other think I thought was a tough matchup was their front four against our offensive line. Particularly considering where we are with the offensive line, the way the game unfolded – them getting an 80-yard drive for the first score and then having the ball slip out of Philip’s hand giving them a short field – once you get to 14-0, it just maximized the matchup in a negative manner in terms of what we had with our offensive line and their front. It was fairly obvious we struggled to do much with that matchup. Obviously, when you get behind and then they jump up 14-0, then you play into their hands in terms of things that we were capable of doing. We just weren’t able to overcome.”