The Panthers defense yesterday was as much the story of their loss to the Falcons as it was the story of their victory over the Cowboys a week ago. Tevin Coleman became the first back in 22 games to rush for over 100 yards against Carolina. Matt Ryan did his best Cam Newton impression to the tune of 2 touchdowns. Luke Kuechly missed a tackle that allowed Tevin Coleman to rush for 27 yards down the Panthers’ sideline [url=http://www.panthersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-hats]Carolina Panthers Hats[/url] , y’all. That isn’t going to happen every day.The optimistic takeaway from yesterday isn’t that the Panthers held Julio Jones to under 300 yards receiving, its that the Falcons won because the Panthers defense had a one in a million fluke game. Its that the offense is still struggling to figure out how to use its best players — or to best use its players — and yet they were still a few drive-stalling drops away from taking control of that game.Take a step back and look at the coverage leading up to Sunday. We couldn’t stop talking about the injuries to the Panthers offense. Greg Olsen is missing and freshman offensive coordinator Norv Turner was tasked with making a game plan around an offensive line whose healthy members couldn’t get jobs as stunt doubles if Keanu Reeves decided to remake the Replacements. We aren’t talking about that today because they did a serviceable job. That is phenomenal.Newton threw the ball from clean pockets a few more times (read: even once) than I expected. Christian McCaffrey and CJ Anderson had room to run sometimes. The problem was that the same could be said for Ryan and the Falcons. It would have been nice if the Panthers had recorded even a single sack.The defense seemed a step behind the Falcons on every play that the Falcons didn’t run perfectly. The Falcons ran too many plays perfectly. It was not a combination the Panthers were able to beat — except that they were. Newton threw one of the most accurate passes I’ve seen in his career on a Hail Mary attempt that would have seen most passers range between bouncing the ball short of the end zone and sending it way out of bounds. Newton’s ball bounced off of DJ Moore’s arm in the middle of three defenders. If you thoughtMoore caught that ball at first then you are not alone.The only time the offense was truly frustrating was when they spent the opening half racking up false start penalties. I’m looking at you, Torrey Smith. Between those penalties and the drops by your teammates, Newton was once again let down by his team. Punch one more game like that and he gets a free, disappointing lunch at Texas Roadhouse.The trick to remember is that Smith is a veteran. He’ll get that under control. The Panthers don’t come nearly as close in their comeback without a few of his catches. Jarius Wright, Anderson, and Ian Thomas share as much blame as he does.The Panthers were able to beat the Falcons yesterday, they just didn’t. The combination of things it took the Falcons to pull off that victory is a rare thing and that’s great news for the Panthers in a division where the Bucs may actually be a team again. The Falcons may have won, but they didn’t look like they could have played much better. The Panthers have obvious leaps and bounds they can take.Division games are always crazy and this one took place in week 2. Teams hardly know who they are at this point. All we know is that the Panthers have displayed, at times, a dominant defense and a competent offense. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl with only half of that combination. Joe Flacco did too. Do any of you really think Newton is in such a lowly tier as either of those guys? Of course you don’t. Newton’s is averaging more than 65% completions this year. I hear that’s elite.The Panthers have all of the pieces to play meaningful football through January and guys besides that are busy getting healthy to shore up the obvious weaknesses. We know they can play defense. We know Cam Newton is great at more than throwing passes for his receivers to drop. The start of a season is always weird as injuries and realities define the tension between what a team wants to do and what it is capable of doing.For now, the recipe for success in the Carolinas seems pretty simple. Newton needs to keep being himself. Kuechly needs to learn how to tackle. DJ Moore needs to continue his progression from week to week. The Bengals will teach us a lot about the reality of this team and the bye week will come just in time for the Panthers to address that before the rest of the season. The New York Jets' already intriguing quarterback competition just got a lot more interesting.Thanks to a poised Sam Darnold. And a sharp and healthy Teddy Bridgewater.Josh McCown is still No. 1 on the depth chart, but the other two quarterbacks made big-time statements in the Jets' 17-0 preseason-opening victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Friday night."We'll see how the preseason goes," coach Todd Bowles said after the game. "I'll make my decision when it happens. I'm not going to jump to any conclusions after one game. I'm going to take my notes and watch practice and compare with the coaches and we'll come up with a decision. It's a tough decision."We have three good players and we're happy to have them."Bowles has said that the competition could last through the fourth preseason game, and he didn't back off that when asked if that were still the case."Probably," the coach said in his typically understated fashion.While Bowles isn't about to start making any premature proclamations, there was plenty for the Jets and their fans to get excited about.McCown played just one series and was replaced by Bridgewater [url=http://www.panthersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-hoodie]Carolina Panthers Womens Hoodie[/url] , who led New York to scores on both of his possessions. Then, Darnold jogged onto the field at MetLife Stadium to an ovation befitting a guy considered by many to be the savior of the franchise.The No. 3 overall pick in the draft showed poise, accuracy, playmaking ability on the run and veteran-like cool in his NFL debut."I thought I played pretty good," Darnold said. "I think I just put the ball where it needed to be, tried to get it in the hands of our playmakers."The former USC star finished 13 of 18 for 96 yards, including a touchdown pass to Charles Johnson during which he rolled right and zipped the football into the end zone to his receiver while on the run. That came after Darnold brushed off a drop and an offensive pass interference penalty — both on Johnson — leading to the score."Poise. Again, the poise in the pocket," Bowles said. "Obviously, the touchdown throw. The scramble was very good use of his feet and accuracy, but he does that in practice all the time, so I can't say it impressed me because we see it every day. Just his handling of game situations. There are things he can get better at, but it's a good start for him."Darnold was quick to point out a negative moment, namely when he was sacked by Jonathan Celestin in the fourth quarter."I feel like I could've gotten that ball out on the shallow (route) there, but you live and you learn I guess," he said. "So, I'm just going to watch the tape and see really what exactly happened on some of the plays [url=http://www.panthersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-customized]Womens Customized Carolina Panthers Jerseys[/url] , but I thought I did pretty well. I took care of the football, which was my main priority."The Jets are giving Darnold every opportunity to win the starting job, and the rookie appeared well on his way to doing so while working with backups against the Falcons.New York takes on Washington next Thursday, and it remains to be seen how Bowles will split the snaps among the quarterbacks. The next step for Darnold might be playing with the starters.Bridgewater was also impressive in his Jets debut, showing flashes of the player who was a Pro Bowl selection with the Vikings before a severe knee injury sidelined him for most of the last two years.He looked comfortable and even took a hard shot during a play, immediately bouncing up from the turf."It felt good getting hit again," Bridgewater said with a smile. "You never want the quarterback getting hit, but for me, it was the final step of the process. Got hit, got right back up and it just served as a reminder that the game is still the same."Bridgewater capped his first series with a touchdown toss to Isaiah Crowell, and led the Jets to a field goal on his second drive.He finished 7 of 8 for 85 yards, and looked every bit like a starting-caliber quarterback — for New York or perhaps another team as potential trade bait if Darnold continues to progress rapidly and leaves no doubt as to who should be under center when the Jets open the regular season at Detroit."If you're a football fan and you enjoy the sport, it's fun to be a part of," McCown said. "And to get a front-row seat and more importantly to just go out and want to see them accomplish the things that we talk about in our quarterback room on a daily basis is huge and they did that and so we couldn't be happier. I'm really excited for them and now it's back to work."