How to lose a football game? Let the 1-12 Panthers count the ways, this time to Saints
BY SCOTT FOWLER
1 hour ago
Perhaps we’ve been looking at these Carolina Panthers all wrong. Perhaps rather than ridiculing them for their NFL-worst 1-12 record, we should praise them for the inventive ways they find to lose each Sunday.
The Panthers’ creativity in capitulating each week?! It’s extraordinary. The latest example came Sunday, as Carolina managed to arrange another array of mistakes into a 28-6 road loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Coaching decisions. Player errors. Roster-building miscalculations. It was all on juicy display in this one, as the Panthers showed once again that the quick hook owner David Tepper gave to former head coach Frank Reich after only 11 games has only served to make things worse. The InTeptitude of this franchise, once again, knew no bounds.
Six points represented the Panthers’ worst output of the season, which is saying something given this team’s frailties. The Panthers’ 22-point margin of defeat was their second-worst of the season, trailing only the 23-point defeat to Dallas. The difference is that Dallas is a legitimately good team and the Saints (6-7) aren’t — the New Orleans offense was routinely booed in its home stadium Sunday. After three quarters, Carolina had doubled up the Saints in yardage — 238-119.
And still, the Panthers lost by 22. That’s hard to do.
Rather than write much about the game’s play-by-play, let me just give you four snapshots:
▪ Running the ball well all afternoon (Carolina had 204 rushing yards), the Panthers had a key fourth-and-1 on the New Orleans 36. At the time, Carolina was only down 14-6 midway through the fourth quarter. What do the Panthers, and presumably offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, call here?
An empty-backfield, five-receiver pass play.
Bryce Young and the passing game was completely out of sync 95% of the afternoon. Not surprisingly, intended receiver Raheem Blackshear fell down, the ball fell incomplete and Carolina whiffed on the opportunity. Run the dang ball!
▪ Interim head coach Chris Tabor is a Tepper favorite who used to be the team’s special teams coordinator. You’d think his promotion after Reich’s firing would mean the special teams is one area the Panthers can count on, right? Wrong.
Carolina’s punt protection team managed to leave a Saint completely unblocked on one Johnny Hekker punt, so much so that the ball was practically taken off Hekker’s foot and didn’t even count as a blocked punt because it happened so fast. Instead, it was technically a fumble, one that New Orleans returned for an 8-yard touchdown (and got Hekker hurt, to boot).
“A man didn’t go out and block the guy he was supposed to,” Tabor said of the play later. “So that’s a mistake that obviously cannot happen.”
* After running back Miles Sanders broke his best run of the year — a 48-yard run to the New Orleans 1 — Carolina managed to turn that first-and-goal from the 1 into a fourth-and-goal from the New Orleans 11 with two straight negative-yardage plays. The Panthers had to settle for a field goal.
▪ At halftime, Young’s passing stats sounded like something from a middle school wishbone team: 3-for-15, for 28 yards, along with a lost fumble. He ended up 13-for-36 for a paltry 137 yards and zero TDs or interceptions.
This wasn’t all on Young — as usual, there were dropped passes, poor route-running and so on, too. But Young also managed to miss fellow rookie Jonathan Mingo on a deep pass when Mingo had worked his way free and would have scored easily.
Lack of execution, especially for myself,” Young said. “I missed a lot of things.”
There’s more, but you get the idea.
“Everything’s frustrating right now, if I can be completely honest,” said Tabor, who has four more games to go as interim coach before Tepper hires someone else. When Tepper does, he will be employing what will be his seventh NFL head coach in Charlotte (including interim coaches) since he bought the team in 2018. In Tepper’s 95 total games as the Panthers’ owner, the team has had six straight losing seasons, never made the playoffs and is 30-65 overall. It’s been ugly.
So the Panthers, as everyone knows, need a — well, another — major overhaul.
But in terms of creativity, and losing games in new ways each week? In that way, the Panthers are actually underrated.