The Carolina Panthers clinched last place in the NFC South yesterday with their 38-6 loss at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts, so there aren’t a lot of positives to write about in this week’s stock up, stock down column. I’ll spare you the long, drawn-out reasoning and just get right to it. You’re welcome.
Christian McCaffrey: I don’t know what else we can say about CMC that we haven’t already said at this point. He ended his day with 173 yards from scrimmage (54 rushing, 119 receiving) and broke his own record for receptions by a running back in a single season. He needs 67 yards to become the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, and come hell or high water the Panthers better make sure he gets it next week. We need something to root for in this dumpster fire of a season, so that might as well be it.
Michael Palardy: I know you’re probably wondering why he’s here considering how awful the Panthers were at stopping — or not stopping — punt returns, but Palardy’s stock is up because of his throw to DeAndrew White that picked up a first down on the fake punt. I know you probably disagree, but it made me happy and it’s not like we have much else to be happy about from this game, so just let me have this one.
I don’t think I should put him in stock up or stock down so I’m just going to talk about him by himself because we need to talk about his debut.
He wasn’t great, but he also wasn’t terrible. He was exactly what you think a third round rookie quarterback making his first NFL start with a swiss cheese offensive line would be. He was 27 of 44 for 224 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions and was sacked five times. In his defense, he lost DJ Moore due to a concussion and his offensive line didn’t do him any favors. Yes, he made some bad throws. Yes, he threw some interceptions that he could have avoided. No, he didn’t look like a future franchise quarterback.
But, there were some good moments sprinkled in there too. He stepped up into the pocket to evade pressure. He took what the defense gave him. He relied on CMC and took the safe route instead of trying to force it into double coverage. He threw it away when there were no open receivers. I know the backup quarterback position is one of the most hotly debated topics among football fans, but I think the Panthers may have found one in Grier. I think he’s better than Kyle Allen, but I also think that he’s nowhere near the level of Cam Newton... and that’s okay given the circumstances of yesterday’s start.
It’s impossible to place him in either category because there were times where he fit in both, so I’m going to give him an incomplete grade this week. I hope we see more good things from him next week so we can get a better idea of what we have in him for next year and beyond.
Literally everyone else. My god, this was a nightmare game. I don’t know if I should call each player out individually, or if I should just steal Greg Olsen’s quote and call this an organizational failure from top to bottom. It was that bad. The offensive line couldn’t block, the defense couldn’t tackle and the special teams were a disaster. I don’t know how you can give up two punt return touchdowns and a 40-yard return all in one game, but the Panthers found a way to do it. The television broadcast pointed out that the Colts haven’t had a punt return touchdown since 2012, so congrats for being slump busters once again, Panthers.
If I had to call someone out specifically, it would be Vernon Butler. You can’t get embarrassed on a block like that and then take your frustration out by punching a dude — and ramming the back of his head into the turf — while he’s on the ground. You especially can’t do that to a guy who had nothing to do with you being embarrassed in the first place. It’s not a good look. You deserved to be ejected for that bush league cheap shot. Oh, and nice touch by flipping off the fans as you were leaving the field... real classy, Vern.
To be honest, the Colts showed us mercy by only beating us by 32 points. The Panthers arguably looked worse yesterday than they did when they lost 51-13 to the San Francisco 49ers earlier this year. The only reason I watched this game from beginning to end was because I got paid to do so, and honestly I questioned whether or not it was worth the money multiple times.
There’s no hope for anything other than a top-10 pick at this point. The Panthers will either finish 5-11 or 6-10, and frankly I’m not sure which one is better. A 5-11 record gets them a better draft pick, and a 6-10 record gives them something to be happy about at the end of yet another dismal season. As long as they can stay in the top 10 of the upcoming draft I don’t really care what happens against the New Orleans Saints in Week 17, so I’m rooting for the highest draft pick possible. Whatever has to happen for the Panthers to stay in the top 10 of the draft — I would assume that means yet another loss, which would be their eighth straight — is what I’m hoping for.
What about you, Panthers fans? Who stood out to you yesterday? Share your thoughts.