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Sunday, September 11, 2011
Wrap-up: Cardinals 28, Panthers 21

By Pat Yasinskas

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.