Coming into Sunday’s matchup against the Vikings the Carolina Panthers have gotten off to a fast starts – holding a +44 point differential at halftime, the 2nd highest margin in the NFL. The third quarter has been another story – specifically on offense. The Panthers’ offense has been outscored 48-7 in the third quarter (not including the special teams touchdown in the third quarter of the loss to the Vikings). The only points Carolina has scored in the period were against the Texans in week-three. It’s an on-going issue that dates back to last season.
This week against the Vikings, the Panthers offensive possessions in the third quarter were: punt, fumble and punt. What’s going on during halftime is an on-going question. What adjustments are being made based on first half trends? Are the Panthers’ changing their game-plan or just hoping their preparation through the week carries them through?
After Carolina’s 34-28 overtime loss to the Vikings, Matt Rhule was again asked about the team’s post-halftime struggles compared to late game situations where they seem to move the ball better. Rhule admitted that the offense is still searching for their identity.
“That might be who we are moving forward, we might need to get in no huddle and move the ball down the field the way we did there. I think right now we have to figure out, especially with Christian [McCaffrey] out and some other guys out, what our identity is. The no huddle has helped us the last couple of weeks,” Rhule continued. “So we’re trying to figure out exactly what we can do to win as best we can. The defense kept us in that game for a long, long, long time. We win and lose as a team. The defense had a chance to get the stop at the end to win it but they needed a little help in that first half.”
An offense still in search of its identity in year two of a new coaching staff isn’t unreasonable, but it is a disservice to a Panthers’ defense that is built to win now. It’s Joe Brady’s job, specifically, to decide how he wants his offense built and formulate a game plan that utilizes his weapons to the best of their ability around that. We shouldn’t see the offensive production fall off with the absence of one guy – Christian McCaffrey, or not.
The good news is that the season is still young and the Panthers have an opportunity to right their 3rd-quarter sinking ship, but with three losses in a row, there’s little margin for error. Matt Rhule and Joe Brady need to figure out something now or risk wasting all the work put into building a playoff caliber defense.