It goes without saying that fans of the Carolina Panthers had mixed emotions about the beginning of the season. Questions about the quarterback situation, the health of Christian McCaffrey, the defense…even questions about the kicker. So many questions and Sunday was the first day where we started to get some answers. So let’s dive into Sunday’s loss for the Panthers.
Ground Game Success for Cleveland
The Browns didn’t look great on the offensive side of the ball but they were able to do enough to come away with a win. Nick Chubb looked like his usual self with 22 carries and just shy of 150 yards. Kareem Hunt also had a decent day in a supporting role, hitting near 50 yards and scoring two touchdowns – one as a rusher and one as a receiver. The Panthers’ defense looked completely incapable at preventing them from running the ball. Every rushing attempt felt like they got close to ten yards. As far as the passing game goes, Jacoby Brissett didn’t look great, but he did enough to get the job done. His completion percentage was just over 50% and there were several turnover-worthy throws that Carolina failed to capitalize on.
Penalties Galore for the Defense
The defense for Carolina was sloppy and unmotivated at times. They were unable to consistently put pressure on the quarterback and only sacked him one time. There were plenty of sloppy plays where flags were thrown; in total there were five penalties called on the secondary alone. One of those penalties was an underthrown ball by Brissett that led to a defensive pass interference call for CJ Henderson that negated what would have been a tide-turning interception. There was also one costly roughing the passer penalty that gave the Browns a free fifteen yards on their final drive. While it’s debatable about whether the penalty should have been called, it was. For the defense it was a very frustrating day where good plays were constantly being overshadowed by mistakes.
Sluggish Start for the Offense
Carolina’s offense looked lethargic until the fourth quarter. Christian McCaffrey, the number one playmaker for the Panthers, struggled to get anything going. He rushed for only 33 yards and caught only 24 with one rushing touchdown. Baker Mayfield was not impressive against his former team, only completing 16 of 28 passes with a touchdown and a bad interception. He seemed to struggle getting things going until the last quarter of the game. He did string some good throws together on their final offensive drive that put them in a position to win the game. Robbie Anderson had a phenomenal day with five receptions, 102 yards, and a beautiful touchdown in the fourth quarter to light a fire under the team. The offensive line struggled allowing 10 total pressures, 8 hurried throws, and 4 total sacks. Rookie Ikem Ekwonu struggled going up against Myles Garrett for his first career start. Most notably, Ekwonu gave up sacks on back to back plays that effectively killed a drive. Talk about being thrown in the fire for the first game.
Where Do the Panthers Go From Here?
The Panthers head into MetLife Stadium this week to face the New York Giants. The Giants are coming off of a huge week one upset against the Tennessee Titans. Carolina is coming off of a heartbreaking comeback attempt. The Panthers need to work on a lot of things after this past week. Here are the key points:
- Limit penalties and unnecessary mistakes
- Defend the run better, especially with Saquon Barkley looming on the horizon
- Get the offense going to not put them in a comeback situation
- Get the pass rush going
The Panthers have a ton of potential on both sides of the ball. Losing a winnable game in week one is not an ideal start to the year with such a tough schedule. As a fan, I just hope we can get things going in the right direction before time runs out.