It was a day of insanity for the Carolina Panthers, as the same things that have haunted them all season long, or for several seasons, were the exact reasons they couldn’t win the football game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The offensive line gave new starter Taylor Heinicke only the slimmest of opportunities as he filled in for Cam Newton, and the defensive line continued to fail to generate sacks with a four man rush, especially without Kawann Short.
It all started off about the way you’d expect. Taylor Heinicke fumbled his first snap under center, only to pick it up again and charge ahead for a three yard gain. The team ended up scoring a touchdown on the drive, but it would be the only time today that they would accomplish that feat. The score was knotted up at 10-10 by halftime, but on the very first offensive play after the half, the Falcons went deep on a busted coverage to take a 17-10 lead that they never looked back from.
The offense never had much of a chance, as third string left tackle Marshall Newhouse played one of the worst games I have ever witnessed from an NFL offensive lineman, resulting in constant pressure on an already nervous (and injured) backup quarterback. Thankfully, the skills of Christian McCaffrey were enough to make this game respectable as he once again busted through the 100 yard rushing barrier, as well as setting several records on the day. McCaffrey’s records included most receptions in team history by ANY player of any position and most receptions in league history by a running back in a single season.
In week 17, I wouldn’t be surprised if the keys to this offense are handed over to third string quarterback Kyle Allen, as he played pretty well in spot duty today, completing all four of his passes. Also, there is a good chance that the injury to Heinicke’s non-throwing arm could keep him out of the contest as well. Either way, the Carolina Panthers are officially out of playoff contention now, and it is time to switch into evaluation mode... and there is a LOT to evaluate.