Panthers win preseason opener

Aug. 11, 2013 @ 05:18 PM

The Carolina Panthers took a step in the right direction with an opening preseason victory over the Chicago Bears on Friday night in Charlotte.

While the Panthers claimed a 24-17 victory, there were plenty of indicators to show there is still a long way to go.

The defense showed plenty of promise, allowing just a field goal in the first half. Carolina also forced three turnovers, including two interceptions by second year player Josh Norman, one of which he returned for a score.

“Defensively, it was a good way to start, not allowing a score from their (Bears) first group,” Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson said. “We had some good takeaways, a couple good picks from Josh (Norman). It’s a good confidence booster for him. But it is still preseason and we can’t be satisfied. We still have a long way to go.”

Norman, a second-year cornerback out of Coastal Carolina, started for the Panthers for half the season last year until he was benched due to coverage issues. After last night’s performance, Norman could find himself back in the mix for a starting spot.

“He’s (Norman) a ball hog and he’s got the ability to make plays,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “We saw that last year and I really do believe he’s having a solid (training) camp.”

Offensively, the Panthers struggled through much of the game, committing four turnovers, including a Cam Newton interception by Jonathan Bostic that he returned 51 yards for the Bears only touchdown in the first half.

“He tried to force it,” Rivera said.

Former Oregon standout Kenjon Barner showed both highs and lows in his NFL debut. Barner fumbled early in the second quarter, but followed it up with a five-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to give the Panthers a 14-10 lead at the half. However, Barner lost yet another fumble on a handoff exchange with third-string quarterback Jimmy Clausen on the Panthers’ first possession of the second half.

“I can’t have that,” Barner said. “In no way, shape or form can you win games with turnovers. I’ve got to get that corrected and continue to get stronger.”

While a win is never a bad thing, it is clear that the Panthers have a lot of work to do to get ready for a Week 1 showdown with Seattle. The Panthers will look to take another step forward when they visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night.