The Panthers tore through the Bengals’ vaunted defensive line and their hopes for a 3-0 start with a devastating efficiency on the ground as they tried to close out a 31-21 victory.
Maybe even more devastating is that perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green was lost early in the third quarter with a groin injury. Green tried to make a leaping catch over the middle and it looked like rookie cornerback Donte Jackson hit him early. The ball went one way and Green seemed to land awkwardly the other way. He stayed on the sidelines after he was rated probable and quickly downgraded to questionable.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton finished the game 29 of 45 for 352 yards and two touchdowns, but threw four interceptions.
With the little used Josh Malone playing for Green, Dalton went for him almost right away and with cornerback James Bradberry draped on him, the ball got deflected in the air and intercepted at the Bengals 26 and the Panthers leading, 21-14.
For the second time Sunday the Panthers cashed a Dalton interception for a touchdown. This one was Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s five-yard run up the middle shortly after he had wriggled off the right side for seven yards. And a face-mask penalty on safety Shawn Williams really hurt when the Bengals sniffed out a run to wide receiver D.J. Moore for no gain. That made it 28-14 with 5:34 left in the third quarter.
Dalton cut the lead to 28-21 with 2:53 left in the third quarter when he rolled away left from the rush and against his body fired a 27-yard touchdown to Boyd running away from safety Colin Jones.
As a team the Panthers rushed for 230 yards with running back Christian McCaffrey leading the way with a career-high 184 of them rushing.
Then moments later Dunlap came from behind Newton and tomahawked the ball out of his hands and it looked like defensive end Sam Hubbard recovered at the Panthers 27, but the ball skittered away from him and Carolina ended up punting and Dalton kept pumping for a tie.
With the Bengals offensive interior unable to keep the Panthers tackles at bay, Dalton got chased out of the pocket. And again he was flushed left and again he found Boyd. This time he was leaking away from the secondary for a 49-yard catch.
On the last ditch drive, Dalton got sacked by Efe Obada on his blind side when tight end Tyler Kroft couldn’t get there at his own 7. And on the next snap, Dalton got picked near midfield when it looked like wide receiver John Ross may not have completed his route.