CHARLOTTE -- The glitzy West Coast offense made its triumphant debut Sunday afternoon at Ericsson Stadium. Well, sort of.
Not that fans expected Kerry Collins and the Panther offense to suddenly morph into Brett Favre and the Packers, but the vaunted offense that new offensive coordinator Gil Haskell installed never seemed to make its way east.
What was displayed here seemed to resemble the west coast's laid-back atmosphere more than the offense San Francisco developed and perfected.
"I don't think any phase of our team played well enough to win today," tight end Wesley Walls said after the Panthers dropped their second straight opener, 19-14 to the Atlanta Falcons.
There were a few glimpses of what Haskell's offense may eventually become. Quarterback Kerry Collins threw for 270 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown pass to Raghib Ismail late in the third quarter to cut the Panthers' deficit to 16-14.
But plays generally looked rushed and uncomfortable, as if players still were thinking, rather than reacting.
"This was one that was ugly, ugly," cornerback Eric Davis said. "It was a bump in the road. From here on out, we've got to get better and correct our mistakes."
The offense is supposed to be built on a series of short passes that sustain drives and open up the running game. It did neither yesterday.
Of their first seven possessions, five failed to produced more than a single first down. In fact, the Panthers two TDs were built on just six plays between them. Collins hit Walls on a 6-yarder to tie the game at 7-7 late in the first half.
As for the running game, it was virtually nonexistent. Carolina went to the ground just 19 times for 54 yards, and had more first downs by penalties (two) than by rushing (one).
"I don't think any offense can work without a running game," Collins said. "We've got to continue to get better as a team and as an offense."
Running back Fred Lane touched the ball just 14 times out of the backfield, including only six in the second half, and closed with 40 yards.
"I just feel like I didn't do anything today," Lane said. "I feel like I did when I walked in here earlier this morning. I just didn't do anything out there."
Walls said that the ineffectiveness was a matter of poor execution rather than bad calls or bad schemes.
"There were great plays called," Walls said. "There were a bunch of them. We had opportunities. We had some great plays called. We had some opportunities and we missed some.
"Sometimes it doesn't work exactly like it does in practice, but you've got to make plays, and we didn't make them."
Collins put together a solid final drive, taking the Panthers 52 yards in 56 seconds to set up a last-gasp try from Atlanta's 36-yard line. But after his Hail Mary pass was tipped, it fell just short of Ismail's hands in the end zone. Just like everything else yesterday.
"We'll get better," Collins said. "I think we've got a bunch of guys around here that want to get better and know that we've got a lot of work to do."
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