The Carolina Panthers lost a depressing 16-13 affair to the lowly Chicago Bears when Eddy Pineiro’s 59-yard field goal attempt fell short with under two minutes to play. Here’s what’s rising and falling in Carolina.
Tempers for Tepper
When David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers in the summer of 2018 Panthers fans were full of hope. The new, progressive owner made his billions after starting and growing a wildly successful hedge fund, giving Carolina fans hope that he would apply those same smarts, savvy, and successes into his new football team. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened.
Tepper largely inherited the 2018 team that went 7-9. Since then the Panthers have gone 23-52, providing fans with a half decade of largely pointless, hopeless, and boring football. Carolina is clearly the NFL’s worst team right now and there isn’t a clear path to relevancy in the short term. In previous years fans have turned their frustrations largely toward former coaches, GMs, and quarterbacks. But fans are restless knowing Tepper is the only constant in the Panthers recent failures. It’s Tepper’s hand steering the vessel and Carolina has struck an ice berg.
Derrick the Wrecker
Derrick Brown is having an incredible season and his performance against the Bears was nothing short of remarkable. He consistently collapsed Chicago’s offensive line and finished the day with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits. With 49 tackles on the season he’s on pace for 93 tackles this season.
NINETY THREE TACKLES! AS AN INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN!
My apologies for the all caps, but what Derrick Brown is doing this season is nothing short of brilliant. He will almost assuredly earn his first Pro Bowl selection this year.
Imhir declares “I’m here!”
In the first quarter punt returner Imhir Smith-Marsette returned a punt 79 yards to the house for one of few explosive, exciting plays the Panthers have mustered this year. He displayed great vision, speed, and elusiveness in weaving his way through a crowd then juking the punter for the score. The Panthers offense is largely inept and will require more assists from the special teams to get enough points on the board to actually win a few more games this year. It was Carolina’s first punt return touchdown since 2017.
Strachan stretching the defense
Late in the first quarter wide receiver Mike Strachan hauled in a beautiful 45-yard bomb on a deep post corner route. As soon as Al Michaels said “Mike Strachan” I said out loud, “who?”. I follow the Panthers closely and have written about them for years and I’m not ashamed to say I had never heard of this guy who suddenly sparked Carolina’s stagnant offense.
For those as unfamiliar with Strachan as I was, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound receiver was a 2021 seventh round pick by the Indianapolis Colts so he played under Frank Reich. In two seasons with the Colts he had five receptions for 85 yards. He signed with the Panthers practice squad in September and was elevated to the active roster prior to Thursday’s game. While he only had the one reception against the Bears there’s at least some hope he can make some more progress from here.
Amazon’s awful broadcast
The only thing worse than listening to Al Michaels phone it every week on Thursday Night Football was Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce joining the broadcast for most of the second quarter. Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit spent nearly the entire quarter barely covering the action on the field while having pointless, stupid, meandering conversation with Kelce about the “tush push”, his brother, his undecided retirement plans, the Sexiest Man Alive, and the Eagles culture. Those in the booth couldn’t have been less interested in the actual game. If the announcers and producers clearly don’t care, then why should we care as viewers?
Amazon’s message to Panthers fans tuning in to TNF was essentially this: “Your team sucks. Your team is boring. We don’t want to have to broadcast this game. We’re going to do something else.” This might all be true but my frustration goes back to the old saying that you don’t call another person’s child ugly.
My simple and measured retort is this: No, Amazon, YOU suck!
Pining for D’Onta “Four-Point-Three”-man
It’s still unclear why GM Scott Fitterer didn’t bring back D’Onta Foreman in 2023. During his lone season in Carolina last year he ran for 914 yards (53.8 YPG) on a healthy 4.5 yards per carry. This season with the Bears he’s averaging 61.2 rushing yards per game on 4.3 yards per carry, and he’s doing it on a one-year, $2 million contract. Foreman is outplaying both Chuba Hubbard (who has been just fine) and high-priced Miles Sanders. Fitterer fumbled this one.
Thomas Brown’s third down frown
With 1:22 left in the second quarter and the Panthers facing third-and-1 from their own 48, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown made a highly curious decision. He put Bryce Young in shotgun and sent Miles Sanders in motion out wide, leaving no running backs in the backfield. Young’s receiving options were Sanders (a decoy), Hayden Hurst in the slot (where he’s not often effective), struggling rookie Jonathan Mingo wide right, practice squadder Mike Strachan wide left, and Adam Thielen.
Unsurprisingly, Young ended up forcing a bad pass to Mingo that was almost intercepted for a pick-six. The Panthers then chickened out near midfield and punted. The sequence was a clear mistake in both strategy and tactics and a reminder of how lost the 2023 Panthers offense has become.