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NFL: OCT 16 Panthers at Rams

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Less than a week after Head Coach Matt Rhule was informed that his services were no longer required in Carolina, Steve Wilks took over as the team’s interim head coach. With Panther fans unsure of what to expect, the initial returns (through the first quarter) were initially positive. The Panthers took the opening kickoff and immediately launched into a 12-play, 61-yard drive that ate up six minutes of game time. The drive would fizzle as the team approached the red zone, resulting in a Eddie Pinero 42-yard field goal.

That opening drive, led by PJ Walker at quarterback, in for the injured Baker Mayfield, would prove to be the longest drive of the day for the Panthers and the only offensive drive that resulted in points. The Panthers’ second drive would net 39 yards before the offense would punt. The next seven drives would all generate 10 yards or less on offense.

The Panthers’ defense, in their first game since defensive coordinator Phil Snow was replaced, did their part for much of the game, despite missing multiple starters and key contributors. Cornerback Donte Jackson, playing through injury, had some rough patches, but picked off a Mathew Stafford pass and took it to the house, just before halftime to give the Panthers a 10-7 lead heading into the break.

The Panthers held the ball on offense for 11 minutes in the first quarter, but would finish the entire game with just under 23 minutes in time of possession. In the subsequent quarters, the Panthers had the ball for less time than they did on the game’s opening drive. The team had just over 6 minutes of possession in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined. In the fourth quarter, after PJ Walker took a hard shot and was pulled from the game, Jacob Eason came in to finish up the day, leading the Panthers on a 60-yard drive close to the end zone, before throwing an interception to seal the game.

The Rams would score on three consecutive drives starting in the middle of the third quarter, flipping a 10-7 halftime deficit into a 24-10 lead, a lead that would hold until the clock reached zero. Christian McCaffrey would finish the day with 158 total yards, while the Panther quarterbacks would combine for 119 yards passing. Robbie Anderson was a complete non-factor on the field and was multiple times seen venting frustration on the sidelines. it wasn’t much better for Anderson’s counterpart on the other side, DJ Moore, as he had just 3 catches (on 7 targets) for 22 yards.

Looking forward, the Panthers offense will have to be better if Coach Wilks wants to turn this season around. Regardless of the quarterback, the 3rd down efficiency has been a problem and Sunday was no different, as the team converted just 2 of 10 3rd down opportunities. The Panthers fell to 1-5 on the season with the 24-10 loss to the Rams and the team has just seven total offensive touchdown drives in 6 total games, compared to three touchdowns for the defense.

The Panthers next opponent, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, come into the game with a 3-3 record, but looking to bounce back from a loss to the Steelers on Sunday. The Panthers will welcome Brady and co. to Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 1:00 PM.

New Head Coach and QB, Familiar Struggles for Panthers Offense  was originally published on