Imagine if coming into this game I would have told you that Carolina’s backup quarterback, Baker Mayfield, would throw for just 51 fewer yards than Joe Burrow and Mayfield would have more touchdown passes than his Bengals counterpart. What would you have concluded? The most logical explanation would have been that both starting quarterbacks - PJ Walker and Burrow - got injured early and their backups struggled through the second half and maybe the Panthers pulled out a win. Right?
Wrong! What really happened was the Bengals ran the ball down the Panthers throats, PJ Walker delivered a bench-worthy stinker, and Cincinnati jumped out to a 35-0 lead in a dominant win. The game was nowhere near as close as the 42-21 final score indicates. Folks, it was ugly. Here are the numbers, including a few positive ones, behind the massacre:
9 passing yards - PJ Walker’s stat line at halftime was 3-of-10 passing for nine yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. Carolina’s first six possessions included three three-and-outs, a “four”-and out where the first down came on a defensive penalty, and two interceptions. Not surprisingly, PJ Walker and the Panthers offense scored zero first half points and Walker got benched.
35 points - The Panthers first half defense was just as bad as the offense by surrendering 35 first half points, including 28 in the second quarter. Yes, it was 35-0 at halftime. The Bengals pulled many of their starters late in the third quarter, but even then they still amassed 223 rushing yards on the day. Joe Mixon averaged 7.0 yards on 22 carries while scoring five total touchdowns (!!!!!). Samaje Perine averaged 8.6 yards on six carries. Carolina’s defense has been pretty good for most of the season but was downright shameful in this one.
53 scrimmage yards, 88 return yards - Undrafted rookie running back Raheem Blackshear was one of the bright spots. Coming into the Cincy game he had just four carries on the season for negative four yards. But against the Bengals he rushed five times for 13 yards and a touchdown, but most notable were his four receptions for 40 yards and an electric 66-yard kick return to start the second half. Let’s at least keep our eye on the rookie from Virginia Tech and see where things go from here.
53 receiving yards - Terrace Marshall Jr. had his second strong showing in a row. Against the Bengals he had three receptions for 53 yards and a score. On his touchdown reception - the first of his career - Marshall was just bigger and stronger in overpowering the corner covering him. Carolina needs the No. 59 pick in the 2021 draft to make strides this year, and Terrace is doing just that despite some very shaky quarterback play behind him.
83.2 QBR - Just when it looked like PJ Walker had nailed down the starting quarterback gig, he absolutely bombs the first half against the Bengals and is replaced at halftime by Baker Mayfield. While the game was already 35-0 and Cincy was taking its foot off the gas when Baker entered the game, Mayfield played a pretty good two quarters going 14-of-20 for 155 yards and two touchdowns. This gave him a QBR of 83.2 on the day compared to PJ Walker’s QBR of, ahem, 2.6. With Sam Darnold also now activated it’s going to be a wild ride to see how many reps each of Carolina’s QBs get the rest of the way from here.
The overall summary
This game was an embarrassment. No further summary needed.
The Panthers now have a short week before hosting the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football. On a personal note, I’m making the drive from Greensboro to Charlotte and going to this game. And, yes, I’m excited, despite the Panthers record.
Because of other Sunday priorities in my personal life I rarely get to attend Panthers games, so when they host a Monday or Thursday night game I try to go. Even if the Panthers are terrible like they are this season and might end up starting their head security guard at quarterback, I always love entering Bank of America Stadium and watching a nationally-televised game under the lights.
Bad team, but good times.
Hopefully I’ll see a few of the CSR community cheering on the Panthers right along with me on Thursday night.