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Defense carries Panthers past Jaguars in 20-9 win

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The Carolina Panthers might contend for the NFC South crown again this year, but a 20-9 win over the Jaguars on Sunday shows that it might not be pretty (again).

Here's what we learned ...

1.Carolina's offense is running at a faster pace and with a third element (second running back) more often included in their read-option sets. This might be something to watch out for considering the way the league has found effective ways to defend against the traditional zone read. In fact, it might be a vital part of Carolina's scheme going forward. The Panthers' problems at wide receiver are very real, as evidenced by a wide open touchdown drop by Ted Ginn, one of three on the team's starting two drives by their wideouts. Jerricho Cotchery is likely their most dependable target outside of tight end Greg Olsen.

2. Gus Bradley's defense is the closest it has been to fitting an image reminiscent of the one in Seattle. On the first drive, backed up against their own goal line, the Jags received a big sack by Chris Clemons and a big pass breakup by Paul Posluszny. Posluszny also had a demoralizing pick a few drives later midway through the second quarter, which should have led to points. If their offense can catch up, look out.

3. Blake Bortles looks 100 percent more comfortable in this offense than he did a year ago. The main reason? A power running game that can also morph into a reliable short passing game out of the backfield. Two running backs were drafted in the first round this year but that might have been because not enough teams at the back end of the first round considered T.J. Yeldon, who clearly established himself as the team's lead back on Sunday with 51 yards rushing and a few very shifty moves.

4. Speaking of Bortles, he still has a long way to go. Despite a heightened comfort level, he rifled a ball into double coverage, resulting in a game-changing pick six early in the third quarter. A summation of his night in a few words: Fewer wounded duck throws, the same amount of momentum-altering mistakes (In Bortles' defense, it was a beautifully executed bluff coverage by Carolina).

5. Another missed extra point! Jaguars kicker Jason Myers is aiding my narrative that the lengthy 1-point kick will eventually cause a Chuck Knoblauch-level plague of yips across the league.

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