In Week 2 the Panthers suffered another disappointing loss on a late, long field goal to fall to 0-2. This time it was former Panther Graham Gano drilling a 56-yard bomb with 3:38 left in the game to put the Giants up 19-16, which would prove to be the final score. As previously noted here at CSR, with this loss the Panthers extended the NFL’s longest current losing streak to nine games. Here are the key stats from a disappointing loss:
2 turnovers - The Panthers began the game with two turnovers on their first two possessions. First, Chuba Hubbard fumbled the opening kickoff and the Giants recovered at the Carolina 22, setting up a New York field goal and a 3-0 lead. On Carolina’s second possession Robbie Anderson fumbled at the Carolina 40, which led to another Giants field goal and a 6-0 lead. Bad teams like the Panthers simply can’t gift points to their opponents.
60 yards - The only reason this game was close is because the Panthers defense showed out, especially in the first half. Carolina’s defense gave up just 60 total yards in the first half, including zero rushing yards by the Giants. Yes, Saquon Barkley and his peers were held to zero rushing yards at halftime. Despite the Panthers inept offense keeping the defense in a hole, Phil Snow’s squad kept the team in the game with a 6-6 halftime score.
-9 yards - The Panthers trailed 19-16 with 2:42 left in the game. Carolina faced a crucial third-and-6 from their own 46. Rookie left tackle Ikem Ekwonu got beat on a stunt and gave up a nine yard sack to force a fourth-and-15 and a Panthers punt. Before the sack the Panthers were about 20 yards away from field goal range to potentially tie the game and likely force overtime. But this sack forced a punt (which was shanked) and the Panthers never saw the ball again as New York ran out the clock to salt away the win. Ekwonu has really struggled in his first two NFL games (he also had a bad false start penalty on fourth-and-1 earlier in this game), but these growing pains are to be expected at one of the most difficult positions in football.
2-of-12 - The Panthers offense converted just two of 12 third down opportunities. Not all third downs are created equal though. The reason the Panthers struggled so much on third down is because six of their opportunities came from third-and-8 or longer. Carolina’s inability to gain yards on first and second down led to far too many third-and-longs that a toothless offense could not convert.
4 tackles for loss - Frankie Luvu was outstanding. He was credited with 10 tackles (all solo), four tackles for loss, and one pass defended. He likely prevented a Giants touchdown on New York’s second possession. The Giants had the ball at second-and-goal from the two yard line when he blew up a Daniel Jones designed run for a six yard loss, forcing a field goal. Luvu was a revelation last year in specialty packages, but he’s become an impact player this year as a starter.
The overall summary
Football is such a fickle game. The Panthers sit at 0-2 but could easily be 2-0 if one or two plays had gone differently in each game. At 0-2 the season — and all hope — already seems lost. If Carolina was 2-0 we as Panthers fans would be talking about the playoffs and an extension for Baker Mayfield. The 2022 Carolina Panthers are just good enough to give us hope, but just bad enough to rarely give us joy.
Christian McCaffrey ran the ball 15 times for 102 yards and had four receptions for 26 yards. This feels like about the right workload for CMC. With about 20 touches per game he can still make a major impact while hopefully avoiding injuries or getting worn down as the season progresses.
The No. 3 wide receiver role remains a mess. Shi Smith had one reception on six targets (with a couple of big drops) for just two yards. No other Panthers wide receiver outside of DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson was even targeted. Through two games Terrace Marshall Jr. and Rashard Higgins each have zero receptions. What’s going on?
The Panthers front four played really well in this one. Brian Burns had two sacks and four quarterback hits. Matt Ioannidis had a sack while undrafted rookie Marquan McCall had three tackles and a huge tackle for a loss late in the game. Derrick Brown had four tackles along with two other big plays on third downs that forced punts, including a pressure on Daniel Jones and batting down a ball at the line of scrimmage.
In the secondary, PFF noted that Jaycee Horn was on the field for 38 coverage snaps and allowed just one catch for four yards with a 42.4 passer rating allowed. He got lucky when he bit on a double move but Daniel Jones overthrew the receiver on what could have been a touchdown, but overall Horn is looking special. Horn’s fellow corner Donte Jackson once again flashed some hard hits and solid open field tackles. Donte left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and we can only hope he’s okay.
Chuba Hubbard cannot return any more kicks. The opening fumble was a disaster and he nearly fumbled another kickoff later in the game but was ruled down by contact before the ball came out.
Looking out a few weeks, if the Panthers lose to the Saints to fall to 0-3, they then have a winnable home game against the Arizona Cardinals followed by really tough games against the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.