The Carolina Panthers and the word “turnover” were supposed to only be synonymous with one another in the off-season.
On Saturday night, the two were connected early and often on the field. The New York Jets capitalized on five Carolina giveaways on their way to a rugged 9-3 preseason win at Bank of America Stadium.
“We‘re capable of making plays, we just need to keep working,” said Panthers starting quarterback Matt Moore, who completed 6 of 17 passes for 57 yards and one interception in one half of play.
On a night where both New York (1-1) and Carolina (0-2) had offensive woes, the Jets pounced on three Panther turnovers in the first quarter.
Jim Leonhard intercepted Moore’s third pass of the night, a deep sideline throw to rookie wideout Brandon LaFell, then New York recovered a Jordan Pugh fumbled punt and an Armanti Edwards muffed punt return later in the first.
The Jets offense struggled to move the ball after collecting the turnovers.
New York’s two scoring drives in the first half combined for four yards of offense and a pair of Nick Folk field goals, one in the first quarter and another in the second.
Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 5 of 10 passes for 12 yards against an active Carolina defense.
“You have to look at the glass as half-full,” said Panthers head coach John Fox. “We held a team after five turnovers to 112 yards.”
Panthers defensive end Everette Brown led the charge for Carolina’s efforts, as he recorded five tackles and two sacks in a losing effort.
Even the five sacks the Panthers posted on the Jets wasn’t enough to offset the team’s concerns with the lack of success through the air for the second straight week.
Rookie QB Jimmy Clausen was the only Panthers quarterback other than Moore to play. Against a constant New York pass rush, Clausen faced his share of trouble in his debut in Charlotte.
“It was a very exciting day for sure, and we had some ups and downs,” said Clausen, who played the entire second half.
Clausen finished with a game-high 72 yards on 9-of-22 passing.
“We’ve really got to improve the passing game, and everyone knows it,” Carolina tackle Jordan Gross said of the Panthers’ inability to move the ball and protect their passers.
After Nick Hayden recovered a New York fumble in Jets territory early in the third quarter, Carolina was unable to gain a first down and settled for a 42-yard John Kasay field goal.
New York responded, with 49-yard fourth-quarter Folk kick set up by a fumbled punt from Panthers receiver Kenny Moore.
Clausen converted a third-and-10 on Carolina’s final drive with a 14-yard scramble, but New York's Drew Coleman intercepted a Clausen pass soon after the scramble.
Clausen described the long run as “just trying to make a play, the coverage downfield was pretty good.
“(Jets coach Rex) Ryan does a good job, they were coming after us," Clausen said of New York's defense, who collected four sacks.
The Panthers were led on the ground by Mike Goodson’s 33 yards on six carries, and starter DeAngelo Williams’ 26 yards on six rushes.
Like Moore and Fox, Clausen said the Panthers have the potential to win, but not without more improvement in the passing game and the turnover margin, which was 5-2 in favor of the Jets.
“It always leaves a sour taste in your mouth when you lose,” said Clausen. “But we're making strides.”