The Carolina Panthers lost to the New York Giants to extend a number of superlative statistics in the Matt Rhule era. Unfortunately, none of those stats are cause for optimism. My personal favorite is that the Panthers defended their active streak of most consecutive losses in the NFL from eight to nine. Points for consistency, I suppose.
Why don’t we all agree to talk about Rhule later today and focus for now on the few bright spots from yesterday. The point of this column, after all, is not to sell you on why this team is going to win next week but rather on why they might be worth watching next week and why they might win ever again. That gets harder and harder with each consecutive loss, but we’re all Panthers fans here. We’re nothing if not used to a bad team full of good players.
Christian McCaffrey is healthy and the sun probably rose today (I’m hoping here, because I’m writing this on Sunday night). Now, let’s all go knock on wood and throw some salt over our shoulders after saying that and get on to what optimism we are left with.
What I liked
McCaffrey ran 15 times for 102 yards and caught four passes for 26 yards. Three cheers for his first 100 yard rushing game since 2019. He was healthy yesterday and I enjoyed watching that. I have nothing more to say about this.
The front seven
These guys had a horrible showing against Cleveland the week before but showed up yesterday ready to play against the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Saquon Barkley. The man did basically nothing in the first half and that is largely why the Panthers were able to claw back into a tied game until the end of the fourth quarer.
While Brian Burns, Matt Ioannidis, Derrick Brown, and Marquan McCall all had splash plays on defense, Luvu was the lone star yesterday. He was everywhere from pressuring Daniel Jones to nearly intercepting him. He led the team in tackles with ten, with four for loss, and had one pass defense to his credit. He is the guy that this defense needed to have step up if they were going to have any success this season.
Was yesterday a flash in the pan or a great player finally putting every aspect of his game together? The Panthers offense is sure to give him plenty of opportunities to see the field this season, so we should have an answer soon.
What I didn’t like
The, uh, offense
Handing off to McCaffrey was a great start. They really nailed step one of the game plan. After that everything looked a little... bad. The offensive line couldn’t protect Baker Mayfield. Mayfield couldn’t find open receivers but for the rarest of occasions. His receivers couldn’t catch the ball.
From play calling to execution this game wasn’t lost because of Rhule’s mythical, perennial one or two plays, it was lost because the offense had one drive where they seemed like they were on the same page. Everything else was chaos. Who was behind Shi Smith matching DJ Moore’s game-high six targets? Smith himself was behind his only hauling in one of those for two yards. That was a thing that was bad yesterday, for the record.
Giovanni Ricci and Stephen Sullivan got their first career receptions in a game in which Rashard Higgins and Terrace Marshall Jr didn’t see a single target. That was a thing that was confusing.
This was a game in which the Giants were missing their top two edge rushers, their top corner, and three of their top back ups in the secondary. The Giants were thin and still held a healthy Panthers offense to being 2-12 on first down. That is on personnel, play calling, and execution. In short, that was on coaching, and if I talk anymore about this I’ll stray into that subject we agreed to save for later.