NFC South: University of Phoenix Stadium

Wrap-up: Cardinals 28, Panthers 21

September, 11, 2011
Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 28-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium:

What it means: All four NFC South teams lost their openers, but the Panthers are the only ones to come away with a moral victory. Cam Newton became the first rookie quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards in his first game and a new era began in Carolina. Ron Rivera might be a defensive coach at heart. But, unlike John Fox, he realizes that you’ve got to throw the ball and have some creativity in your offense to win in the modern NFL.

What I liked: Almost everything Newton did. The Panthers drafted him No. 1 overall because they thought he could be a difference maker. He’s already made a difference. He at least has given Carolina fans hope. He’s also made receiver Steve Smith (eight catches for 178 yards and touchdowns) happy. A happy Smith certainly beats the alternative.

What I didn’t like: Linebacker Jon Beason was carted off the field in the third quarter. Beason injured the same foot that was bothering him in the preseason. Beason is a tough competitor and I have no doubt he wanted to play in the opener. But maybe higher powers should have been a little more cautious and made Beason sit out. If he’s going to miss a long stretch, it’s going to take a big toll on Carolina’s defense.

The tight ends matter: Greg Olsen had four catches for 78 yards and Jeremy Shockey had three catches for 51 yards. If you combined those numbers, it would have made for a pretty good season for the tight ends in the Fox days.

What’s next: The Panthers have their home opener next Sunday with the Green Bay Packers. Given how strong Green Bay’s offense looked against the Saints on Thursday night, Newton might have to throw for 600 yards for the Panthers to have a chance.

Rivera, Newton have shot at history

September, 6, 2011
Carolina coach Ron Rivera and quarterback Cam Newton have a chance to make history Sunday in Arizona.

Since 1970, only four new head coaches have opened their season on the road with rookie quarterbacks. Only one of those combinations has produced a win in the opener. Here’s a look at the history of new coaches starting rookie quarterbacks in openers on the road.

On the bright side of history, Newton’s had success at University of Phoenix Stadium. That’s where he played his final collegiate game. He led Auburn to a BCS National Championship with a 22-19 victory against Oregon on Jan. 11. In that game, Newton completed 20 of 34 passes for 265 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The NFL Players Association released its 2010 survey of playing fields Thursday and the NFC South, as usual, fared very well.

Players are surveyed every two years and asked to rank the stadiums that have natural grass and those that have artificial surfaces. Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium, and Tampa Stadium before that, has been a traditional favorite in the survey that dates back to 1984. That hasn’t changed.

In this year’s survey of natural-grass fields, players ranked Raymond James Stadium No. 2, behind only Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium. Those two finished in the same spots in the 2008 survey. Prior to 2008, Tampa Bay’s home field ranked No. 1 in every survey.

Carolina’s Bank of America Stadium, another traditional favorite, ranked No. 4 among grass fields.

The NFC South’s two domes, the Georgia Dome and the Superdome, also fared well in the ranking of artificial surfaces. The Superdome ranked No. 3 and the Georgia Dome was No. 6.