This one hurts. It hurts bad if you’re a Panthers fan. A third straight loss and the first one of the season at home. It’s a shocking outcome because there are so many positives that came from this game. These are the 4 biggest takeaways from the Panthers 30-27 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Run Defense On Point. Pass Defense? That’s Another Story
It was a tale of two different defense units. Both had their moments, but on Sunday it was the run defense who shined.
Taking on the NFL’s number one rushing offense, Carolina held Seattle to just 75 yards total rushing. Every time Chris Carson even tried to get his legs running, Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson and Thomas Davis had an answer.
A combination of blitz packages and a better effort in tackling helped propel that. As for the pass defense, it wasn’t as bad as everyone thinks it is. The scars started showing early when rookie phenom Donte Jackson went down with a quad injury which forced Corn Elder into his spot. Elder had moments including good coverage in red zone situations, but it was when the Seahawks were threatening at mid-field is when he struggled.
Captain Munnerlyn came in to help on coverage a couple times, but then again, there was also times when Captain found himself lost. Example: The final pass of the fourth quarter that set up the game winning field goal.
We’ve seen ourselves talking about the Panthers having complete games to the Panthers having games where they’re having a major component missing on defense.
Blitz packages were on, James Bradberry stayed lights out, and Shaq is playing like he wants a contract (he’s in a contract year by the way). The Panthers defense has shown us what it can be, but the question is when will we see it be consistent?
Red Zone In Red Alert
Christian McCaffrey had a career day against Seattle, but struggled early in the red zone. He eventually found pay dirt late on a one yard touchdown run, but early in the game the Panthers found themselves bringing out special teams.
Of the seven opportunities Carolina had, they only came away with three touchdowns and two field goals. The other two trips into the red zone ended on turnovers, one of which was an interception in the endzone.
The other a goal line stand were McCaffrey was stopped on the four-yard line. Early in the game, Carolina opted for runs up the middle with McCaffrey and Cam. Norv finally did go to the pass after two straight failed attempts, and it produced results. A
nyone in the NFL will tell you, converting in the red zone is the only way to succeed in this league. Watch for the Panthers to have plenty of short yardage practice this week in preparing for Tampa Bay.
Offense Line Bails Out Plenty of Panthers
Here are some stats to consider. Cam Newton was not sacked against Seattle. Christian McCaffrey ran for 125 yards. Back to back reverse plays net positive yardage that set up a touchdown.
Why did all of this happen? The Panthers offensive line came to play.
What was once supposed to be the downfall of Carolina’s season, the offensive line has turned into one of the bright spots for the Panthers this season. Hit by the injury bug early, players like Ryan Kalil, Trai Turner and Chris Clark have stepped up and not just protect Cam. Clark and Kalil both had fumble recoveries Sunday that if they didn’t get, could have
spelled doom for the Panthers early in the game. It shocks me that no one else is talking more about the offensive line. Since Clark’s arrival, the Panthers now have flexibility to move more versatile players like Greg Van Roten and Tyler Larsen around to use as they please. Carolina wouldn’t be in playoff contention without them.
Where is Greg Olsen?
One Panther mainstay we haven’t seen too much on the box score is tight end Greg Olsen. While he has hit the end zone lately, he hasn’t been thrown to as much as in years past.
Against Seattle, Olsen had four targets. He caught two of them for a total of 11 yards. So why haven’t we seen more from Olsen?
I get that his first job is to help protect Cam, but not having him be one of the top receivers at his position is only hurting the Panthers. If Carolina wants to find themselves playing football in January, Olsen is one guy Norv Turner needs to lean on.