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Return to normalcy: Panthers beat NY Jets, 19-14, in season opener at full-capacity Bank of America Stadium

Published: Sep. 12, 2021 at 10:57 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2021 at 4:18 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Last season, the Carolina Panthers opened the home season in front of empty seats.

Fans were not allowed inside Bank of America Stadium to start the 2020 season because of the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, vaccines had not been approved yet.

On Sunday, fans tailgated and walked back into the stadium. Masks are still required indoors at the stadium.

The season-opener against the New York Jets permitted a stadium at full capacity. The kickoff was at 1 p.m. and was televised on WBTV.

The Panthers gave the home fans some joy in football’s return to Charlotte, beating the visiting New York Jets, 19-14.

Carolina jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead thanks to a 57-yard-touchdown pass from Sam Darnold to Robby Anderson. Darnold also scored on a touchdown run, and passed for 234 yards in the first half.

First-round pick Zack Wilson threw a touchdown pass and scored on a 2-point conversion to cut the Panthers’ lead in half in the third quarter.

Fans told WBTV they were happy to be back, and are optimistic as the season kicks off.

The Panthers are coming off a 5-11 season in 2020. finishing fourth in the NFC South.

However, fans are looking at the bright side.

Aside from defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay, which returns all 22 of its starters, New Orleans lost star quarterback Drew Brees to retirement, and the Falcons were the worst team in the division last year.

Carolina brought in a new quarterback, trading for former Jet Sam Darnold, a former yop three draft pick.

Star running back Christian McCaffrey, who missed most of last year with an injury returns to the Panthers’ backfield.

They also have tackle Taylor Moton, who signed a large contract extension in the offseason, along with wide receivers DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall.

Defensively, the Panthers signed edge Haasson Reddick to join first-round draft pick Jaycee Horn, cornerback Donte Jackson, linebacker Shaq Thompson, edge Brian Burns and defensive lineman Derrick Brown.

The Panthers stay at home and play the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 19.

Panthers’ Brady believes McCaffrey can return to top form

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers were among the worst teams in the NFL in most offensive categories last season.

They’re hoping a healthy Christian McCaffrey changes all that.

McCaffrey combined for 2,392 yards and 19 touchdowns during his All-Pro 2019 season, but missed 13 games season last season due to ankle and shoulder injuries.

He’s back to 100% healthy now and Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady said he believes “Christian McCaffrey is ready to be Christian McCaffrey again.”

That’s not good news for opponents.

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