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Carolina Panthers Win 26-16 Over the Tennessee Titans

The Carolina Panthers grabbed their first preseason win of the 2016 season by a score of 26-16 over the Tennessee Titans.

Last week, the Carolina Panthers struggled to put points on the board with their first-team offense but that wasn’t the case this week when they put up 10 points in their first four drives and set the tone for a 26-16 victory on Saturday. The team didn’t waste much time getting into the end zone when Cam Newton connected with Ted Ginn Jr. for a 61-yard touchdown on their first drive of the game.

The Panthers’ quarterback was sharp the whole time he was on the field, completing 8 of 12 passes for 162 yards and the one touchdown, which was great to see considering he was without his star tight end, Greg Olsen, who missed the game due to back spasms. To make up for the lost production, Newton looked to his two big wide receivers, Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, who combined for four receptions and 48 receiving yards on seven targets.

The Panthers’ starting defense was equally impressive and only had one hiccup when Marcus Mariota connected with Harry Douglas for a long touchdown. That was the only score for the Titans in the first half and after the Panthers’ added two field goals, took a 13-7 lead into halftime.

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is coming off of the best season of his professional career. In 2015, Newton set career-best marks in just about every statistical category en route to his first MVP award, and his 15-1 Panthers made it to the Super Bowl. While you can say Newton had a wonderful defense at his back, few would look at Newton’s supporting cast on paper and suggest that the former first overall pick had much help. His tackles were castoffs Michael Oher and Mike Remmers. His top wideout, Kelvin Benjamin, went down for the year before the season even started. Newton elevated the likes of Ted Ginn Jr. and Devin Funchess into a functional receiving corps.

But 2015 is in the books. There’s a chance we’ve already seen Newton’s best season, which isn’t remotely bad considering a player who peaks as an MVP is quite a player. During his career, though, Newton has continually taken on challenges and exceeded expectations. He led Auburn to the most unlikely of national titles, and after a poll of league executives suggested Blaine Gabbert was the best quarterback in the 2011 draft, Newton emerged as the best offensive player from his draft class. Cam led the Panthers to a division title in 2013, and in the famously topsy-turvy NFC South, Carolina managed to repeat during an up-and-down 2014 before a dominant 2015. His growth has also occurred during a time when the surrounding cast, from weapons to blocking, has remained a question mark.


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CHARLOTTE, drugs N.C. — In his search to help the Carolina Panthers get past the disappointment of losing Super Bowl 50, check Ron Rivera turned to a man who spent many disappointing years searching for Osama bin Laden.

Coaches often turn to friends and others in their profession for advice. Rivera took it one step further, reaching out to a man he’d never met, retired Adm. William McRaven, the architect of the 2011 raid that killed bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Ron Rivera calls on architect of Osama bin Laden

By no means was Rivera comparing a Super Bowl loss to a military operation in which lives were lost when he emailed McRaven. By no means did McRaven try to do the same. But both acknowledged that the leadership it takes to train soldiers in the military for a mission is not that different from the leadership it takes to prepare a player for a new season.

“There’s nothing worse in the world than having to deal with the loss of a comrade, or in some cases a hostage you were trying to rescue or people you were trying to help,’’ said McRaven, now the chancellor at the University of Texas. “But I do think the emotions and how you deal with these situations are similar.’’

Rivera reached out to a lot of people in an effort to address the “Super Bowl Hangover,” a term that has come into use over the years because no team that lost the title game has made it back the next year since the 1992-93 Buffalo Bills. Rivera sought advice from Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden and former baseball manager Tony La Russa, among others.

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CHARLOTTE, help N.C. — The Carolina Panthers brought in a veteran cornerback on Monday.

Not to play.

To teach.

Recently-retired Charles “Peanut” Tillman will spend a couple of days working with Carolina’s young secondary, ed particularly rookie cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley.

One of the first things Tillman taught them was the “Peanut Punch, salve ” a method of punching the ball loose from opposing players over his 13 NFL seasons. His 44 forced fumbles are second-most in the league behind Robert Mathis since 2003.

“He hurt my elbow a little when he did it,” Bradberry said with a smile.

Panthers B Charles Tillman for help with rookies

Tillman, 35, started 12 games for Carolina last year before suffering a torn ACL in the regular-season finale. He was part of a unit that led the league in takeaways with 24 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries.

“It was something we had talked about as coaches, bringing in a veteran guy in, a guy that has been around it, to come talk to our young guys,” head coach Ron Rivera said of Tillman, a former NFL Man of the Year Award recipient. “He was a guy that did some good things for us last year, a guy that really fit into our culture.”

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CHARLOTTE – After Monday’s practice, unhealthy head coach Ron Rivera said he “feels good” about the state of his team through two preseason games, but there are plenty of wrinkles to iron out before the regular season begins.

“I still believe we have a long ways to go,” Rivera said. “There are some things we most certainly can clean up and get better at.”

First and foremost, Rivera wants to see better execution in the red zone on both sides of the ball.

“Any time you get into the red zone, instead of kicking field goals, score touchdowns,” Rivera said. “Any time you allow them to get to your red zone, make them kick field goals.”

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Carolina Panthers against the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL football game

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) dives into the endzone against the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL football game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, try NC.

Carolina Panthers against the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL football game

Carolina Panthers 2016 Football Headshots

CHARLOTTE – James Bradberry had a nose for the football in college, recording a couple of interceptions each season, but he didn’t force any fumbles.

“I’ve tried to strip the ball, but it really hasn’t worked out for me,” the rookie cornerback said. “So I’m going to try to implement the ‘Peanut Punch’ into my game.”

Bradberry and the other defensive backs got a crash course in the “Peanut Punch,” made famous by cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman, at practice Monday. Tillman, who spent last season with the Panthers and recorded two forced fumbles before announcing his retirement, is spending a couple of days with the Panthers.

In 13 NFL seasons, Tillman forced 44 fumbles, nearly twice as many as any other NFL player over the same time period.

“He was a guy who did some good things for us last year, a guy that really fit into our culture,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to mix somebody in that had some sage wisdom to share with these young guys.”

During individual drills, Tillman worked with a handful of defensive backs at a time.

“It’s pretty much just punching while you’re going to tackle. That’s pretty much it,” Bradberry. “It sounds simple, but you’ve got to time it up real well. That’s why he’s so good at it.

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