DENVER, CO - Let's start with the obvious.
Or the oblivious.
The officials, team and new protocol whiffed on the many blows to the head on Cam Newton.
The NFL says video reviews were done to make sure Newton did not exhibit signs of a concussion. I'm no doctor, but it seems an up-close examination would be more appropriate.
The Panthers should have looked at him as well.
And the officials on the field? Cam and Greg Olsen mentioned how much they respect that crew and that's fine.
But it was obvious, especially when Brandon Marshall launched himself, that a flag should have been thrown. One was, finally, but was offset by a much lesser penalty by the Panthers.
Needless to say, the NFL's new protocol was exposed on night one of the 2016 season.
NBC Charlotte received a statement from the NFL on Cam Newton's helmet to helmet hits during Thursday's game.
"There was communication between medical personnel on the Carolina sideline, including the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant," the NFL said. "During stoppage in play while on-field officials were in the process of administrating penalties, the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant and team physician requested video from the spotters and reviewed the play. They concluded there were no indications of a concussion that would require further evaluation and the removal of the player from the game."
I thought the Panthers drive to end the first half with a field goal was brilliant. With no timeouts, the Panthers went 52 yards in 7 plays over 1:42 to set up a Graham Gano field goal.
Newton was able to direct everyone to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball with 12 seconds left, and then connected with Greg Olsen to buy Gano seven more yards.
But if the Panthers hadn't burned all three of their timeouts by 11:20 in the second quarter, that could've been the difference between a field goal and a touchdown -- and a win or a loss.
For what it's worth, the Panthers converted a third down after their first timeout, scored a touchdown after their second, and (eventually) kicked that field goal after their third.
Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall knelt during the National Anthem. It was easy to spot because at this point we are looking for it before every game.
Next up for the Panthers is a home game against San Francisco so the Colin Kaepernick debate will rage on nationally and in Charlotte.
I'd expect more and more players around the league to start joining in as Kaepernick continues to back his statement up with his talk and his money.
Copyright 2016 WCNC