CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- To beat a team as good as the Los Angeles Rams, you're going to need to play very close to mistake-free football.
The Panthers couldn't do that Sunday, losing 30-27 to the defending NFC champions on a muggy, disappointing day in Charlotte.
Carolina turned the ball over twice in the first half -- one on a fumble by wide receiver DJ Moore and another on a backward pass from Cam Newton toward Moore that was tipped and never got there before the Rams recovered it.
Add that to a litany of other mistakes -- including a late Newton interception -- and the Panthers never led in what was their eighth loss in their past nine regular-season games. Carolina (0-1) does at least have a chance to even its record quickly. The Panthers host Tampa Bay on Thursday night, also at home.
The Panthers played catch-up and played it well after falling behind 13-0 in the second quarter, but the deficit was too much to make up in the NFL season opener for both teams.
There were some very good plays that came from all three units for Carolina: Jermaine Carter Jr.'s punt block, James Bradberry's interception and Christian McCaffrey's two rushing touchdowns among them.
But it still wasn't enough. The Panthers' best chance came when they got the ball back down only three points, 23-20, midway through the fourth quarter. But they went three-and-out after a Cam Newton overthrow of Curtis Samuel, and the Rams then rammed in a touchdown to make it 30-20. Newton threw a bad interception to Rams linebacker Cory Littleton on the next possession, and the Panthers were running out of time..
A late drive by Carolina, fueled by some sensational running by McCaffrey, pulled Carolina to within 30-27 on an Alex Armah 1-yard TD with 1:58 to go. Joey Slye's onsides kick was recovered by the Rams, however, and Los Angeles ran out the clock.
Some quick thoughts on the game:
-- The best thing the Panthers had going for them offensively was McCaffrey. The tailback was Carolina's best running and pass-catching threat, combining for 209 total yards and scoring from 8 and 2 yards out. He was spectacular both in real life and for all his fantasy football owners.