The Panthers finished the 2020 season with a 5-11 record thanks to a 33-7 loss to the Saints in the season finale yesterday. As always, there were a few players who stood out — both good and bad — despite the final score, so let’s take a look at the winners and losers from this game. Because this game was so awful to watch and the season is mercifully over, I’ll try to be as brief as I can.
Samuel eclipsed 1,000 yards from scrimmage yesterday after putting up another 100-yard game with 121 total yards (118 receiving; 3 rushing). He didn’t find the end zone, but neither did anyone else (with the exception of Rodney Smith, who we’ll get to later). I’m happy for Samuel and glad to see his talent finally showing up on the stat sheet, but I’m also sad because it probably means he’s going to leave in free agency. Samuel’s going to get paid this offseason, and unfortunately I don’t think Carolina will be the buyer. Thanks, Marty.
Moore also put up another 100-yard game, which is amazing considering how awful the quarterback play was yesterday (definitely more on this later). Moore almost found the end zone but couldn’t come down with the catch, and even though he only caught 5-of-11 targets, the ones he did catch were amazing.
Boston tied for the team lead in tackles (10 total, 4 solo) and also picked up a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. I know he gets a lot of hate from Panthers fans, but he played well yesterday and was one of the few bright spots in the secondary this season. The Panthers signed Boston to a 3-year, $18 million contract in March so he’ll probably stick around at least one more year, which I’m sure will be seen as a great deal by everyone.
The Panthers don’t have much of a choice anymore: They have to pick a quarterback with the No. 8 pick in the draft. I don’t know how they can manage to do it, but they also have to trade Bridgewater and get out of his $23 million cap hit in 2021. They can save $13 million if they can find a team to take on the final two years of his deal (the Panthers would incur a $10 million dead cap hit if they trade him).
Bridgewater’s remaining two years are more like a 1-year deal because the final year would only incur a $5 million dead cap hit if he’s released, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a team willing to see if they can get something out of him. Even if the Panthers settle for a Day 3 draft pick, they need to move on and rebuild with their guy, even if they have to make a trade to move up in the first round to get him. Teams don’t get many opportunities to find franchise quarterbacks, and the Panthers have a chance to do that this year with a solid class of prospects. Hopefully they take advantage and strike while the iron is hot.
In case you missed the game, Bridgewater was 13-of-23 for 176 yards, 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions (both were in the end zone). He was sacked once for a loss of 10 yards. Oh, and he also picked up seven yards on three carries. Not that it matters, but it happened so I figured I’d mention it. He was replaced by PJ Walker in the second half, presumably because he picked up an ankle injury in the first quarter.
I think it was also a case of ‘donthaveit-itis’, but that’s just me.
I hate to put Walker here but he was also putrid yesterday. He went 5-of-14 for 95 yards with 0 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. I know it’s hard to come into a game cold like he did and expect to play at a high level, but the three interceptions were the icing on the cake. I’ll give him one thing, though: at least he didn’t throw his interceptions in the end zone. That’s about the only good thing I can say about it.
I was happy for Efe Obada, who picked up another sack to give him 5.5 on the year. I hope the Panthers re-sign him, and I think they could without breaking the bank. He’s a restricted free agent this year, so they can match any offer another team makes him if they really want to keep him around.
Shaq Thompson tied for the team lead in tackles (with Tre Boston) with 10 (3 solo), which is a pretty good day for him. It’s really hard to compare anyone to Luke Kuechly so I think Thompson gets an unfair shake sometimes, but I do think he’s a solid linebacker who is also a team leader. You need those guys on your team, and I’m glad we have him around for a few more years.
Kudos to Rodney Smith for picking up his first career touchdown, and kudos to Tommy Stevens for getting some game time in his first NFL appearance. I liked seeing the Taysom Hill package with Stevens and kinda hope the Panthers carry that over to next year, because it would be fun to watch.
Who stood out to you yesterday, Panthers fans? Share your thoughts with us!