QB Jimmy Clausen (Streeter Lecka/Getty)
The quarterback changed; the sloppy play remained the same. The Carolina Panthers turned the ball over four times, twice on botched exchanges, and the Cincinnati Bengals took advantage and came away with a 20-7 victory that sent the Panthers to 0-3.
Jimmy Clausen and the Panthers struggled mightily on offense in the first half. Carolina went into halftime with just two first downs and 50 yards of total offense, including just 6 net yards passing.
Clausen was credited with three turnovers in the first half, including a botched quarterback-center exchange and an interception on a throw he tried to force into Steve Smith. The third turnover, a bobbled handoff attempt to Mike Goodson, appeared to be Goodson's fault.
Despite the sloppy offensive play, the Panthers went into halftime down just 10-0. That was due mostly to Ron Meeks' defense, which forced some turnovers of its own as Captain Munnerlyn and Charles Godfrey each picked off Carson Palmer.
The halftime deficit should have been even larger, but the Bengals bungled a scoring opportunity in the closing seconds of the first half, running out of time with the ball on the Carolina 5-yard line.
The Panthers showed some fight in the second half. After starting the third quarter with a three-and-out, the offense faired much better on its next possession with an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 1-yard TD run by Jonathan Stewart.
It was the first offensive touchdown the Panthers had scored in the second half of any game this season. Unfortunately for John Fox & Co., there would not be any more points to follow.
The game was ultimately decided with just under 10 minutes remaining and the Panthers trailing, 13-7. With the ball near field, Stewart coughed up Carolina's fourth turnover of the day. Three plays later, Palmer found Cedric Benson for a 7-yard scoring strike and a 13-point lead.
Clausen continued to do some good work once the game was decided, including finding Brandon LaFell for a 44-yard completion down the left sideline. But it was too little, too late as Clausen lost his pro debut and the Panthers fell to 0-3.
--With LaFell back from a hamstring injury, Dwayne Jarrett was banished to the inactive list. Also on the inactive list was rookie WR Armanti Edwards as the Panthers went with just three wide receivers.
--OT Jeff Otah (knee) was on the inactive list, too. The Panthers' running game continues to struggle without the road-grading right tackle, averaging just 3.6 yards on 24 attempts against the Bengals.
--Godfrey, in addition to collecting his third interception, led the team with 11 tackles.
--The Carolina defense did a good job of getting off the field, allowing the Bengals to convert just five of 17 third downs (29 percent). Unfortunately, the Cincinnati defense was even better, as Carolina converted just two of 11 opportunities (18 percent).
--The Bengals successfully executed a fake punt early in the second quarter when Brian Leonard ran for 4 yards on fourth-and-2. It didn't matter much, though, as the Panthers defense held and the Bengals were forced to punt seven plays later.
--The Bengals held nearly a 13-minute edge in time of possession.
What did Panthers fans say about Sunday's game? See in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.