The Panthers fought valiantly in the second half against the Packers, but were unable to overcome the 21-3 deficit they fell into after a poor first half and fell to 4-10 on the season. The Panthers are officially eliminated from the playoffs, so hopefully we’ll get to see some player evaluation over the next two weeks.
I know Matt Rhule has said he wants to try to win every game, but with a top-five draft pick already in hand, it doesn’t make much sense to win two games that no one will remember in a few years. Now, I don’t want to see the Panthers just roll over and die, I mean I still want to see them put up a fight, but I hope we also get to see some players we haven’t seen much of this season in the final two games.
But enough about that. Let’s take a look back at who stood out in the Panthers’ 24-16 loss to the Packers on Saturday night.
Brian Burns, Derrick Brown and Efe Obada
The trio of Panthers defenders combined for the team’s five sacks, and also chipped in a combined eight tackles, five tackles for loss and five quarterback hits. I was really encouraged by Obada’s play and I hope the Panthers are able to keep him around for a few more years to see if he can develop into an even better pass rusher than he is right now. Brian Burns is exactly who we thought he was (a menace to opposing offenses) and Derrick Brown picked up his first career sacks (and hopefully we see a lot more from him).
DJ Moore and Robby Anderson
Both players eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards on Saturday night and both deserve a shout out for doing so. The offense has struggled mightily at times, but at least we have two dynamic receivers who play well together. Now if we can just get someone who can take advantage of having two weapons like that on the field at his disposal, everything will work out just fine for the Panthers (more on this later, obviously).
Panthers second half defense
This game was a tale of two halves for the defense, and in the second half they came out and locked down the Packers’ offense to give themselves a chance to make it a competitive game. They forced the Packers to punt on five straight drives, and except for a field goal late in the fourth quarter they shut the Packers out for the majority of the second half. It’s really a shame the offense couldn’t take advantage of all those stops on defense, but at least one half of the team did their jobs on Saturday night.
Panthers first half defense
The Packers drove down the field at will on the Panthers in the first half and put up 21 points in their first three drives. It looked like the game was going to be a blowout by the end of the second quarter, but thankfully the team straightened themselves out in the second half and made it a competitive game. I wish the first half would have gone a little better than it did, but full credit to the Packers offense for taking advantage of our inability to stop them from moving the ball down the field and building a lead we couldn’t overcome.
I just can’t do it anymore, y’all. I can’t defend Bridgewater and say ‘well, at least he’s a nice guy’ or ‘at least it could be worse’, because while it could be worse — I mean, we could be the Jets, after all — there’s really not much comfort in that. It’s like being poisoned to death and saying ‘well, it could be worse, we could have been stabbed’ or any other boring cliche you want to use. The bottom line is this: the Panthers have had eight opportunities to win a game in their final drive this year, and they are 0-8 in those games. Bridgewater’s not the guy, and hopefully the Panthers already know that. If they do, that means we’ll probably use the top-five draft pick we’re getting on a (potential) franchise quarterback. If they don’t, we’ll hate watching football for the next two years. I really hope it’s the former.
He went 21-of-35 for 258 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also had four carries for 26 yards and a touchdown, but he also fumbled the ball on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line when the Panthers had a chance to make it a 14-10 game in the first half. Instead, we got a 21-3 deficit that we never recovered from, so it really doesn’t matter much that Bridgewater threw for over 250 yards because when it mattered the most he cost the team a chance to stay in the game. He was also sacked three times for nine total yards, but those didn’t really make much of a difference in the final result.
I liked seeing Ian Thomas getting involved in the offense, but it’s a shame that it’s taken this long for it to happen. I think he has potential to be a good No. 2 tight end in the NFL, but I’m not sure he’s ready to be ‘the guy’ at the position. I hope the Panthers are able to find a good receiving tight end to pair with him, whether that be in the draft or free agency this offseason.
Jeremy Chinn crossed the 100 tackles mark on Saturday and became the third Panthers rookie to accomplish that feat (Luke Kuechly and Jon Beason are the other two), so kudos to him for having such a great season that should end with him being recognized as the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award winner.
Kudos to Matt Rhule for taking the three points before the two minute warning to give his team as much time as possible to attempt a comeback. I like that he rewarded his defense in the second half by trusting them to get the ball back into the hands of the offense, and I’m glad they did their part by giving the Panthers a minute of game time to mount a comeback. It’s just a shame that effort was wasted by the offense again.
What about you, Panthers fans? Who stood out to you? Share your thoughts with us!