There is no better way to describe the start of this game than to say that the Panthers converted one third down attempt in the first half and the immediately turned the ball over on the following first down play. The yardwork you could have been doing (or maybe were fortunate enough to be doing) would have been more entertaining than the first half.
The Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals entered this game as the 32nd and 31st ranked teams on third down conversions and left the first half a combined three of 14 on such attempts. Both teams threw an interception on third down, with the Kyler Murray’s accounting for Carolina’s only touchdown (Frankie Luvu, 33 yards).
The Panthers went up 10-3 at the half after a last second, career long, 54-yard field goal by season MVP Eddie Piñeiro. Otherwise, little of note happened in the first half due to neither team being able to sustain a drive when they possessed the football.
The second half began as a continued string of failed third down situations by both teams until the Cardinals were finally able to string together a touchdown drive—on offense, no less—to tie the game. To be fair to the Panthers defense, that touchdown ‘drive’ was heavily assisted by a 37-yard pass interference penalty on CJ Henderson.
Another three-and-out by the Panthers let the Cardinals offense catch just enough of a breath to throw up a 15-play, 59-yard, penalty and time out filled drive that just showed utter ineptitude in terms of player substitution, clock management, and team discipline from both teams. Arizona took the a 13-10 lead on a field goal after failing to score on third and goal from the 27, but it is hard to call that event a success for either team. Honestly—win, lose, or tie—neither staff should walk out of this stadium with the jobs they walked in with.
As I was writing that sentence, Baker Mayfield had a pass tipped, picked, and then returned to set up a Cardinals first and goal from the 5. Two plays later, Kyler Murray ran the ball in for their second offensive touchdown of the day. That makes two more offensive touchdowns than the Panthers managed, for those keeping track at home. The Cardinals have scored 17 unanswered points.
Make that 23 unanswered as Murray unleashed a beautiful throw to a well-covered Hollywood Brown for a 23-yard touchdown. Meanwhile, the Panthers managed one first down in the second half up to that point.
Second and five of their next possession saw a big play by Christian McCaffrey for the second first down of the second half. The drive threatened to be derailed by the next of Mayfield’s nine batted passes to this point of the game. A big fourth down conversion was followed by being sacked out of their red zone on their first trip there all game. They still managed a 13-yard Mayfield to McCaffrey touchdown pass. The pattern of good plays followed by catastrophic would imply a meteor strike, but instead just followed to a failed two-point conversion trip. That left the Panthers down 26-16 with 4:47 left in the game.
The Cardinals recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran the clock out from there. The Panthers fell to 1-26 in games where their opponents score more than 17 points. But don’t worry, Panthers fans, year three is where Matt Rhule’s teams show their true value.