The only consistency among the Panthers 2-3 start is the way they have won and lost games: two blowout wins paired with three close losses spoiled by miscues and inadequate offensive play.

The Panthers' second-ranked scoring defense has been their backbone all season and it has given them a fighting chance in every game but this team comes and goes with its offense. Everything offensively that’s come to define its successes has also come to define its failures. Red zone execution fast starts and running the football are the three things that head coach Ron Rivera points to as excellent in his team's wins and equally disheartening in its losses.

“It’s a combination of running the ball getting the ball to the playmakers and having them have success early. A lot of it has to do with success early. In both those [wins] we had success coming out in the third quarter as well” Rivera said. “When you break those things down and find out what’s different you look at the red zone. In both those red zone instances we didn’t have negative plays.

"But in the games where we didn’t score touchdowns in the red zone we had major negative things. We just can’t put ourselves behind the eight ball.”

Starting fast is probably the most important thing for the Panthers – both in the first quarter and right after the half. They’ve scored one touchdown in the first quarter and two touchdowns in the third in each of their wins but have a combined 10 points in the two quarters in their three losses.

Rivera has talked about how important it is to engage Newton early and praised the play calls against the Vikings which put the ball in Newton’s hands to run early. When he's hot early he's as good as anyone and seems to ride the wave of momentum throughout. When he struggles early or has a teammate let him down (i.e. Steve Smith dropping a touchdown pass on the first drive against the Cardinals) the confidence seems to deflate and the offense sputters the rest of the day. Newton remains streaky at this point and this team too young to rally from a slow start.