TAMPA, F.L. - This wasn't the plan for a team that had Super Bowl expectations. The Carolina Panthers opened up the 2012 regular season with a 16-10 loss to Tampa Bay Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.
The Panthers offense stumbled out of the block. Carolina was shutout in the first half by a Tampa Bay defense they torched in a pair of meetings one year ago. The Panthers rushed the ball for only ten yards for the entire game. It was the worst output at that position since 2000. Quarterback Cam Newton led Carolina back from a 13 point half time deficit in the third quarter. Newton connected with Brandon Lafell on a 22 yard touchdown pass. It cut the Buccaneers lead to 13-7. But Newton also was intercepted twice by the Tampa Bay defense, and the Panthers could only manage one field goal from Justin Medlock the rest of the way.
Carolina returns to action next Sunday. It's the home opener against another divisional rival, New Orleans at Bank of America Stadium. The Saints dropped their opener to Washington Sunday, 40-32 at the Superdome.