Bryce Young didn’t hit 100 yards passing until garbage time as the Carolina Panthers offense was dominated by the New Orleans Saints defense en route to the Panthers’ second loss in as many games. The game script was strikingly similar to the Week 1 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, but the Panthers were able to string together a late touchdown drive to make the final score respectable.
The first quarter followed a similar script to the start of the season opener. The Panthers defense started on the field, and they quickly got off it with an early sack (this time from Frankie Luvu. Bryce Young took the ball and orchestrated enough of a drive despite frequent pressure to set up a 52-yard Eddie Pineiro field goal.
The Saints marched up the field with the short passing game, but perhaps the most important play of the drive came on a Taysom Hill run. After making the tackle, Shaq Thompson had his leg landed on by a pair of grappling linemen. He was carted to the locker room. The Panthers defense ended up holding the Saints to a field goal.
The Panthers first drive of the second quarter was derailed before it could get started by a Hayden Hurst holding penalty. The Saints nickel-and-dimed up the field before a deep pass to Michael Thomas where he may or may not have pushed off set up a 1st and Goal, but the Panthers defensed bowed up again and held for another field goal.
The teams traded a few uneventful drives ending in punts before the Panthers defense finally made the big play they needed. Vonn Bell sunk underneath a deep corner route by Chris Olave and picked off Derek Carr. Young found Theilen for his fifth catch of the night to put the Panthers on the fringe of the red zone, but three plays later, he was hit from behind while rolling out and fumbled the ball away. No harm done though. Justin Houston and Frankie Luvu sacked Carr on back to back plays to essentially end the half.
The Panthers narrowly avoided a disastrous start to the second half as another strip sack was negated by a defensive holding call. A couple of overthrows by Young ended the drive a few plays later, but Johhny Hekker flipped the field with a punt downed at the three yard line. It paid off, as the Panthers got the ball back in Saints territory after the ball was punted back to them. Jonathan Mingo dropped a would-be first down on second down, then Cade Mays committed a false start with the Panthers lined up to go for it on 4th and 1. The Panthers had to settle for Pineiro’s second 50-plus yard field goal of the night.
The Saints punched back though. The Panthers looked to have them off schedule early in the drive, but Chris Olave beat CJ Henderson deep and made a spectacular juggling one handed grab to set the Saints up for the first touchdown of the night. The Panthers responded with another impotent three-and-out.
The Saints were driving as the game went into the fourth quarter. They were starting to make some headway on the ground but inexplicably tried to pass on 3rd and short, and Kamu Grugier-Hill capitalized with the Panthers’ fourth sack of the night.
The Panthers followed that with their best drive of the night. Young scrambled for a 26 yard gain on 3rd and 10, and DJ Chark drew a deep pass interference to set the Panthers up in the red zone. They stalled out again though, with Young taking another sack on third down to force the field goal unit onto the field for the third time.
The Panthers defense finally broke. Rashid Shaheed broke away from Donte Jackson for a huge gain. Tony Jones punched it in for his second touchdown a few plays later to ice the game.
The Panthers looked really good on their last drive. They dinked and dunked down the field and then Young found Mingo deep to set the Panthers up with 1st and goal. He found Adam Thielen for a touchdown and the ensuing 2-point conversion to make the game a little interesting late. The Panthers didn’t get the bounce they needed on the onside kick, and the Saints were able to run out the clock with a Taysom Hill run.
Too long; didn’t read game summary
The Panthers offensive line was thoroughly dominated by the Saints front four. On multiple occasions, the Saints generated quick pressure while only rushing three players. Running back Miles Sanders had no room to operate in between the tackles in the run game either. The disparity in the trenches completely ruined the Panthers offensive flow, and they didn’t get enough out of the play makers to make up for it. The offense still seems too condensed, and the commentary crew frequently implored the Panthers to try to stretch the field with deep shots. Young struggled again, and it looks like Panthers fans are going to have to be patient with the growing pains.
The Panthers were much better on the defensive side of the ball. They kept Carr under duress and kept the Saints run game bottled up. They struggled some with the Taysom Hill gadget plays, but they otherwise played well. Losing Shaq Thompson hurts, but Grugier-Hill played very well in his absence.
The Panthers will use the short week to regroup before they head out west to take on the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday.