The Carolina Panthers were officially eliminated from playoff contention yesterday when they lost to the Atlanta Falcons 40-20, and if you watched the game you won’t be surprised to find out that there’s not a lot of positive stuff to latch onto if you’re a Panthers fan (and if you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you are).
While most of this game was a disaster, there were a few players who stood out above the rest. Let’s take a look at whose stock is up and whose is down in this week’s stock report.
Christian McCaffrey: CMC had a normal ‘Run CMC’ day yesterday with 135 total yards (53 rushing, 82 receiving). He averaged 4.8 yards per carry and 7.5 yards per reception and caught 11 of 12 targets. The only deviation from the norm was that he didn’t find the end zone, but hardly anyone else did either so you can’t really fault him for that.
DJ Moore: Moore caught four of six targets for 81 yards, including an amazing 39-yard catch that put him over 1,000 receiving yards for the season. He became the first Panthers player to hit 1,000 receiving yards since Greg Olsen in 2016, and the first Panthers wide receiver to do it since Kelvin Benjamin in 2014. When your favorite team turns into a dumpster fire the little things start to matter more, so kudos to Moore for giving us something to root for while the flames engulf us.
Ian Thomas: Thomas took advantage of his opportunity in the No. 1 tight end role with five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. He made one mistake by juggling a pass that bounced right into the hands of a defender for an interception, but he had a mostly positive day. I’m looking forward to seeing more from him in the final weeks of the season.
Vernon Butler: Butler only had two tackles yesterday, but both of them were tackles for loss. He also had a sack and a quarterback hit, which is also good. I don’t know if his next contract will be paid by the Panthers, but Butler is playing to earn a big payday from someone. I just hate that it took him this long to come out of his shell, because it would have been nice to get this production from him for more than one year.
Greg Dortch: If anyone was wondering why Dortch wasn’t given many opportunities to return punts and kicks before yesterday, I think we have our answer. (Full disclosure: I was one of those who believed he should have been given a shot.)
The third quarter was a nightmare for the Panthers yesterday, and Dortch was no exception. After the Falcons scored their second touchdown of the quarter, Dortch fumbled the kickoff (that was recovered by the kicker... yeah, the kicker) and gave the ball right back to the Falcons. Fortunately it only cost the Panthers three points, but Dortch nearly gave the ball right back to them when he fumbled the kickoff again. The Panthers maintained possession because Dortch was ruled down by contact before he fumbled, and the play was upheld after the Falcons challenged it and lost. (In my opinion the officials got it wrong — it looked like a fumble to me and at that point I didn’t really care if it was or not.)
I don’t think the Panthers should make a move and cut Dortch after what happened yesterday. The season is already lost, so they might as well give him a chance to bounce back from the worst performance of his professional career. I’m just not sure that he’s the long-term answer at kick returner. I could be wrong, but I wasn’t encouraged by what I saw from him yesterday. I hope — for both his and the Panthers’ sake — that I’m wrong.
Donte Jackson: Jackson was roasted several times yesterday and gave up a 93-yard touchdown to a guy I’ve literally never heard of until the announcers called his name during the play. Olamide Zaccheaus has one career reception — a 93-yard touchdown against the Panthers on Dec. 8, 2019. He was left one-on-one with Jackson after the Panthers decided to send an all-out blitz, and Jackson failed to tackle him after giving up the catch and the rest is history.
To make matters worse, Jackson blasted the coaching staff to the media after the game and blamed them for calling the wrong play. To be fair to Jackson, he’s probably right, but those complaints are best kept in-house and I think he needs to learn that you can’t air dirty laundry like that no matter how frustrated you are. The best course of action is to own the mistake to the media and then privately discuss with the coaching staff that you feel they didn’t put you in the best position to succeed.
And of course, whether or not the play call was right or wrong, it wouldn’t have mattered if Jackson would have made a tackle. That’s not on the coaching staff, Donte. That’s on you.
Kyle Allen: If you just look at the box score, Allen wasn’t terrible yesterday. He was 28 of 41 for 293 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions (one of which was Ian Thomas’ fault as I mentioned earlier). He also added a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of hand. He was sacked five times yesterday and fumbled twice, but only one was recovered by the Falcons.
If you actually watched the game you’ll know that despite the box score, Allen has shown again that he’s not an NFL starting quarterback, at least not yet. He still drops his eyes down when the slightest amount of pressure gets to him, he panics in the pocket and doesn’t take what the defense gives him and he doesn’t use his second read to get out of trouble.
It feels like the coaching staff has told him to look to his first read and only use that option, and if it’s not there then just get rid of the ball or force it where the play said to go with it. He doesn’t audible, he doesn’t go through progressions and he bails at the first sign of pressure. Yes, he’s young, but the only thing we’ve learned over these last five or so games is what we already knew from the start — he’s a fine backup, but he’s not the long-term answer for this franchise. Hopefully the folks in charge of making decisions know this, because if they don’t then we’re in for a lot of pain over the next few years.
Luke Kuechly and Eric Reid each had 11 tackles and a pass defensed yesterday, which is worthy of mention. Shaq Thompson also added 10 tackles and a tackle for loss (he blew up a screen play that forced the Falcons to punt), and Ross Cockrell had three passes defensed. Joey Slye made all of his kicks (2-for-2 on field goals, 2-for-2 on extra poins) and Michael Palardy punted the ball well.
Other than that, it was pretty much a nightmare game if you care about the Panthers and enjoy seeing them play well, which I’m assuming you do if you’re still reading at this point. I’m not sure the Panthers will have any life left in them over the final three weeks of the season, and they have a Week 15 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks this week that is all but guaranteed to be a gigantic shit show. I hope I’m wrong, but I have a feeling that next week’s stock report will look a lot like this one.
What do you think, Panthers fans? Whose stock is up and whose is down for you? Share your thoughts with us!