After multiple quality wins in the preseason and a return to the team where his grandfather found a great deal of success, coach Bernie Sanders entered week 1 against the LA Rams cautiously optimistic that his Panthers could make a strong statement early, but extreme sloppiness in the passing game and a disruptive Rams front 7 proved the difference in a frustrating 13-6 loss to open the season. On Carolina's second offensive play of the game Cam Newton threw a horrific INT directly to the user linebacker and the offense seemed to lose confidence and rhythm immediately, a problem that has plagued all teams coached by the Sanders family in the past and present. Newton threw 5 INT's, CMC's much-hyped debut ended in injury late in the 1st quarter and though the Carolina defense did an admirable job holding the Rams to only 13 points, turnovers ultimately doomed Carolina to a season-opening loss.
CAROLINA OFFENSIVE MVP: JORDAN SCARLETT, HB
Thrust into an unenviable position of having to replace one of the best running backs in the league, Scarlett acquitted himself well to NFL competition in his rookie debut, rushing for 110 yds on almost 8 YPC against a stout Rams rushing defense. Though Coach Sanders bemoaned his lack of explosiveness in failing to hit a couple of holes early, Sanders ultimately praised Scarlett for generally making the right decisions and providing the only hint of offensive explosiveness the Panthers had all game.
LA OFFENSIVE MVP: GERALD EVERETT, TE
Though the stats weren't particularly impressive, with only 3 REC and 57 yds on the day, Everett was the most impactful offensive player on the Rams due to the huge momentum shifts that two of his catches gave Los Angeles. Everett scored the only offensive touchdown of the game for either team with a physical catch on a 50/50 ball up the seams and converted a long 3rd down by coming down with a ball in double coverage that left Coach Sanders furious at his secondary. Though Todd Gurley broke the 100-yd mark and was generally impressive all game, Everett was the MVP for the impact he left on the game when targeted.
CAROLINA DEFENSIVE MVP: ERIC REID, SS
Anchoring a strong defensive performance that kept Carolina in the game while the offense was floundering, Eric Reid led the team in tackles and came up with a key INT, proving that a secondary that on paper is the weakest element of the Panthers defense is capable of leaving an impact on the game. Reid was in the right position all game, providing a veteran presence in a defense that has youth all over the field.
LA DEFENSIVE MVP: CORY LITTLETON, MLB
Usered for the vast majority of the game, Littleton did an excellent job of shutting down Newton's preferred route combos, forcing the Carolina passing game into disarray and coming down with 2 INT's on the day. Even when Littleton wasn't directly forcing incompletions he was striking fear into Newton's heart, forcing him into bad decisions all game long.