The Panthers entered Week 1 as one of the NFL’s hottest stories with new quarterback Baker Mayfield taking on his old team and hoping to prove to the Browns that they made a huge mistake by letting him through to pasture greener.
Things didn’t start smoothly for the Panthers. During the entire first quarter, the Panthers only got one first down, and that was due to a hard-hitting (very weak) passer penalty on third down that gave the Panthers an extra 15 yards they didn’t deserve. The team threw four times and gained a total of 6 yards in 11 plays (-1 passing yards and 7 rushing yards). Meanwhile, the defense, while awarding no points, gave free rein to the Browns to run the football up and down the field, and if it wasn’t for Jaboby Brissett missing a few open pitches, the Panthers would have been down at least 10-0 at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter wasn’t much better for Carolina. After a Baker Mayfield interception in midfield, CJ Henderson committed a blatant pass interference penalty in the end zone to set the Browns up with a first-and-goal situation at the 1-yard line. As expected, the Browns took advantage of Carolina’s mistakes and scored in the next play to take a 7-0 lead. The Panthers continued to struggle on offense and after their first 21 plays, they had just 19 total yards. The defense began to show signs of exhaustion after being on the field for most of the half and allowed the Browns to come downfield to score another touchdown on a 24-yard stampede from Kareem Hunt to take a 14-0 lead.
The Panthers finally put something together on offense late in the quarter and closed in on a score after a 50-yard pass from Mayfield to Ian Thomas set up a 1-yard touchdown run from Christian McCaffrey with 1:57 to go in the half. Of course, the Panthers followed up their first good drive of the game with an out-of-bounds kickoff that gave the Browns a great starting field position, then a 15-yard penalty mixed with poor defense put the Browns in a first-and-goal situation with less than a minute to play. The Browns spat on offense and settled for a field goal to take a 17-7 lead into the break.
The Panthers defense came out slow in the second half and got the Browns marching downfield in the space of eight minutes, but Carolina finally cracked down when it mattered most in the third-and-long and forced the Browns to stand. settle for a field goal to extend their lead to 20-7 with 7:42 to go in the quarter. The Panthers were unable to respond in the remaining seven minutes of the frame and entered the final quarter of the game on a 13-point hole of their own making.
The fourth quarter began where the third ended: with the Panthers desperately trying to get on the scoreboard and close the gap between the two teams. They were finally successful with just under 13 minutes to play when Baker Mayfield scored on a 7-yard run to bring the Panthers within six points. The defense was unable to prevent the Browns from making it a two-point game again in their next practice as they rolled down the field and settled for a field goal to extend their lead at 23-14 with 6:13 to go. .
The Panthers retaliated quickly on their next drive with a 75-yard touchdown that took just 11 seconds on the clock when Mayfield found a wide-open Robbie Anderson in the field to pull the Panthers within two points of the advance with 6:02 to go. in the game. The Panthers defense was huge for the first time in the game and got the save they needed with 2:21 left in regulation and forced the Browns to punt. The Panthers roamed the field and took advantage of a horse-collar penalty on the Browns to get into field goal range. After a few plays to use up time, Matt Rhule sent Eddy Pineiro in for a 34-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good and it gave the Panthers a 24-23 lead with 1:13 left in regulation. The Browns rolled down the field and took advantage of a (very weak) Brian Burns who brutalized the passer penalty to make a 58-yard field goal to take a 26-24 lead with 0:08 left in time. regulatory.
The Panthers performed another desperation play late in the game and couldn’t find the winning score, and the Browns – who dominated the Panthers for most of the afternoon – find themselves with a victory from 26-24. The Panthers will look to bounce back from that loss next week when they face the Giants and hope to play better than they did today to avoid an 0-2 start to the season.