The Carolina Panthers offense is a broken-down jalopy that can’t be trusted to make it more than 2.6 miles before stalling.
Thursday night’s output in the 16-13 loss to the Chicago Bears was dismal. Bryce Young and the offense put up 213 yards and 12 first downs on nine drives. The Panthers offense barely sniffed the red zone, reaching it once and never getting further than Chicago’s 15-yard line.
“We’re just not hitting on all cylinders right now. We’re not hitting on any cylinders,” receiver Adam Thielen said, via the team’s official website. “It’s an embarrassing effort. I think everyone’s just embarrassed, you know, put up what, six points on offense.
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“Like, we didn’t do anything. That’s embarrassing when your defense is playing the way they’re playing, especially the way they’re playing. It’s embarrassing. And like we talked about, we’re putting in good practices. We’re doing the right things; building the momentum that way, but it’s just not translating. That’s tough.”
Thursday night’s translation turned out to be gobbledygook. The Panthers went three-and-out three times, netting -15 yards on those drives. Their punt-return team led to more points (7) than the offense (6). And even on drives where they held the ball, they moved like that clunker, puttering by the yard.
On their final two drives, the Panthers ate up 10:17 off the clock to move a combined 70 net yards, earn four total first downs and make one field goal. The final drive ended on an ill-fated Eddy Pineiro 59-yard missed field goal attempt.
The saying is football is a game of inches. Right now, the Panthers’ offense is taking that phrase a bit too literally, worming its way for every inch of grass instead of taking it by the chunk.
The bulk of the blame will be placed on the rookie quarterback Young, who hasn’t lifted the offense in ways we’ve seen other young signal-callers.
“First and foremost, I have to be a lot better. We have to be better. It’s frustrating, it’s very frustrating,” Young began. “And that’s not me, that’s not just me, that’s everyone. We’re competitors, and losing is frustrating. It’s fresh, you feel it, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to turn the page. Being frustrated, however you feel, it’s not going to win you a game, it’s not going to help.
“You have to turn that and use that in action throughout the week, and then we have to translate it to Sunday or Thursday tonight, whatever. We have to translate it.”
Young certainly has had his struggles and isn’t playing well. The situation he’s put in — with a porous offensive line and receivers who can’t separate from defensive backs — would make any quarterback look bad.
Multiple things can be true: The No. 1 overall pick isn’t playing like a game-changing talent, AND the offensive situation, from the play-calling to the support system, is broken.
With the Panthers stacking troubling losses as the offense can’t move the ball and the young quarterback makes rookie mistakes, the risk for Carolina is that the player they mortgaged their future to draft could be crushed by circumstance.
“No, I’m not worried about Bryce’s confidence,” coach Frank Reich rebutted. “I think he’s mentally tougher than a lot of rookie quarterbacks. I mean, for a rookie quarterback, considering the start we’ve had, I don’t think I see any retreat in him. I don’t. I see aggressiveness. I see resolve. I see determination, and I feel like he’s taking ownership of it and he’s taking probably more ownership of it than he should.
“Because it’s a group effort, but the quarterback and head coach are always going to be at the center. That’s just the way it is. And so it’s just a credit to him for taking responsibility for the whole offense. When, in fact, it’s not just him.
“Can he be better? Sure. Can I be better? Absolutely. Can we all be better on offense, 100 percent, for sure.”
The Panthers put up 185 passing yards against a Bears defense that entered the game allowing an NFL-worst +0.12 average pass EPA. It was supposed to be a get-right game for Reich’s offense. Instead, it cratered.
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