There is no defeat like a self defeat.
You’re in control during huge pockets of the game and have done enough on the field to win, but it just wasn’t good enough. These type of losses are worse than a blowout, because it’s easy to deduct the reasons for it. It’s not easy to reason away a loss that shouldn’t have happened.
In the aftermath of the Carolina Panthers’ 28-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings the reasons for the collapse are actually simple to point out, but it doesn’t make this loss sting any less.
STRUGGLES ON OFFENSE
For their credit, the Panthers were productive in their ground attack. They established the run, but Teddy Bridgewater struggled through the air. In addition to defensive pressure, Bridgewater couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities. In the second quarter, he was intercepted while attempting a risky throw to Mike Davis on third and goal. This particular play stands out, because it seemed as if Bridgewater was rushed. Options were present. In this situation, Carolina had Robby Anderson, DJ Moore, and Curtis Samuel lined up together on the right. Moore and Samuel ran their posts closer to the end zone, while Anderson’s was shallow. Instead of Bridgewater staying put and patient in the pocket, he tries to force a pass to Davis while Anderson was open. To make matters worse, Davis stopped on his route.
Another missed opportunity worth noting was the overthrow to Moore on second down. In this sequence, Carolina decided to run a play action to Moore and got the matchup they wanted, but the ball was overthrown. Had Bridgewater completed those passes for a score, it would have solidified a Panthers’ win.
SOLID DEFENSE WASTED
The Panthers’ defense brought the pressure and carried the team for three quarters. Jeremy Chinn scored back to back defensive touchdowns. The fumble return for touchdowns shifted momentum, while rookie DB Troy Pride did a respectable job in covering Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson. Early in the game, the Panthers were able to apply pressure in their rushing defense and contained Vikings RB Dalvin Cook to 35 yards on 11 carries in the first half and 61 for the whole game.
While the rushing defense held it down, it was the passing defense that folded. During the final drive of the game, Carolina keep throwing a three man rush at Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense with no success. The Panthers’ defense couldn’t get the pressure they needed and let the Vikings’ hurry up offense feasted. Cousins completed 12 consecutive passes en route to a game winning touchdown pass to Chad Beebe.
POOR EXECUTION BY COACHES
Despite struggles in the passing game and some lapses on defense, the Panthers could have and should have won this game. This loss is mostly on the coaches, and to their credit, they took all the heat in the post game press conference.
On offense, they did a strong job in establishing the run, only to abandon it in the second half. In one sequence, instead of running and milking the clock on a critical third down, the Panthers decide to pass. Not only did they fail to take time off the clock, but the Panthers also did not use time outs during that final drive.
While this season is a season of the process of progress for the Panthers, a loss like this is in excusable.
The Panthers have a bye week next week and will host the Denver Broncos on Dec. 13.