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Big Mo: Dissecting a ghastly loss to the Giants in Week 7

The Panthers win percentage chart mirrors Carolina’s season - things are going down hill fast.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Mo series highlights the plays (or series of plays) that had the biggest impact on swinging the Panthers win percentage as calculated by ESPN. In Week 7 Carolina played one of their worst games in recent memory, losing 25-3 to a bad, injury-depleted New York Giants team.

ESPN

The Panthers entered this game as the favorites and had a 57% win percentage at kickoff. The game went back-and-forth through the first half then in the second half Carolina just imploded. It was ugly, folks.

First quarter 13:22 - Panthers 0, Giants 0

Converting on fourth-and-1 (49% to 65% Panthers win percentage): Carolina took possession to begin the game and faced a three-and-out with fourth-and-1 from their own 36. The Panthers coaching staff decided to be aggressive early and went for it, resulting in a first down and extending a drive that ended with a field goal. Carolina took an early 3-0 lead and their win percentage rose to 65%.

First quarter 0:42 - Panthers 3, Giants 0

Panthers defense makes a goal line stand (41% to 61% Panthers win percentage): The Giants had first-and-goal from the Carolina 2-yard line. On first down AJ Bouye made a touchdown-saving tackle. On second down it was Jeremy Chinn who made the stop. After an incompletion on third down, Sam Franklin dropped Devontae Booker for a 1-yard loss to force a turnover on downs. Carolina’s win percentage spiked 20 points to 61% after the clutch goal line stand.

Second quarter 14:56 - Panthers 3, Giants 0

Giants score five quick points (63% to 36% Panthers win percentage): After the great goal line stand by Carolina’s defense, Sam Darnold got called for intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety. New York’s offense then took possession and produced a quick field goal. A 3-0 Panthers lead suddenly turned into a 5-3 deficit. The Panthers win percentage dropped 27 points to 35%.

Third quarter 5:39 - Panthers 3, Giants 5

Panthers give up 14 yards on third-and-12 (39% to 16% Panthers win percentage): Carolina’s offense was trash all day which put a ton of pressure on the defense. With the Panthers still somehow only trailing 5-3 midway through the third quarter, Carolina’s defense forced a third-and-12 from the New York 38. But instead of forcing a punt, Jermaine Carter couldn’t hang with Devontae Booker in coverage and gave up a 14-yard reception for a first down. Seven plays later the Giants scored a touchdown to go up 12-3 at the end of the third quarter. Carolina’s meager 16% win percentage steadily got worse from there.

Big Mo MVP - Jeremy Chinn

His goal line tackle was fantastic. He led the team with eight tackles including a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. With the Panthers offense and poor punting constantly putting the defense in tough situations, Chinn made plays all over the field.

What I liked

  • Giving Brady Christensen a shot at left tackle. Yes, he got beat a few times, but a young left tackle should be treated like a young quarterback. Give him time, let him learn, and hopefully in two or three years he’ll be an above average player at a critical position. Carolina should keep starting Christensen on the left side for the rest of the year and let him learn his craft. The best case scenario is he progresses enough to be a viable option going forward. Worst case scenario is he struggles throughout this season and tops out as a serviceable backup, or even a viable guard, in the future. The alternative is giving those snaps to Cameron Erving — a below average veteran — on a team that going nowhere fast. Why not invest those snaps in Brady where it can pay some long-term dividends?
  • The decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 on the Panthers first possession to avoid a three-and-out. It set an aggressive tone from the outset and yielded a field goal, but the momentum couldn’t be sustained.
  • Giving PJ Walker a shot over a struggling Sam Darnold in the fourth quarter. (Let’s not talk about PJ going 3-of-14 for just 33 yards, though.)

What I didn’t like

  • Over the last nine games Joe Brady’s offense has scored the following points in the third quarter: 0, 0, 0, 0, 7, 0, 0, 0, 0. I’m going to continue to post this stat every week until the offense scores a third quarter touchdown.
  • Sam Darnold’s really, really bad interception late in the second quarter with Carolina in field goal range at the New York 25.
  • Ryan Winslow’s punts of 28, 32, and 39 yards. Those are high school distances.
  • Robby Anderson being completely ineffective again with three receptions on nine targets for just 14 yards. Through seven games he has just 18 receptions on 49 targets (!!!) for 204 yards.

At 3-4 the Panthers are in last place in the NFC South and just aren’t a competitive football team. Maybe that will change when Christian McCaffrey, Stephon Gilmore, and Shaq Thompson are playing, but it already feels like that’s too little, too late. The combination of a shaky coaching staff, shaky offensive line, and shaky quarterback is a recipe for mediocrity. The Panthers go on the road to face the Atlanta Falcons in an attempt to snap their four-game skid.