Panthers fans, welcome to the latest episode of “Wheel of Blame”.
The only difference between this game and the iconic “Wheel Of Fortune” is that the puzzle is already solved and the object of this game is to find clues as to how the puzzle was solved.
The only prize after Week 17 is that you get to vent about yet another missed opportunity for an upset, and another missed opportunity to sneak into the playoffs.
Now that you know the object of this “game” let’s get into it.
Here’s the puzzle. “The Carolina Panthers have been eliminated from playoff contention with a heartbreaking 24-30 loss in Tampa against the Buccaneers.”
Now, how did we get to this point?
I’ll kick things off with a spin.
After a swift and violent spin, the needle on the wheel raced across multi-colored panels before landing on a black panel revealing the first clue and point of blame.
Tom Brady and Mike Evans had a field day – decimating the Panthers’ secondary. Brady completed 34 of his 45 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns. Byron Leftwich and Tampa’s offense made it a point to get Evans going and they did for 207 yards and three touchdowns. The Bucs were able to take advantage of a decimated Carolina secondary that was missing Donte Jackson and Jaycee Horn. Cornerbacks CJ Henderson and Keith Taylor were toast. On Evan’s 57-yard gain, Henderson appeared to give up on the play, instead of continuing to move. On another score, the safety made the mistake of biting over the top of Tampa’s receivers. While Taylor and Henderson couldn’t replace the coverage of Jackson and Horn, they could’ve made an effort to cover effectively.
After another spin, the needle landed on a silver panel revealing a second clue and point of blame.
Conservative, ground and pound offense has been the M.O. of Panther’s interim Head Coach Steve Wilks and for the most part, the strategy has been successful. However, Wilks and Ben McAdoo were too conservative against the Bucs offensively. On two occasions, Carolina’s offense had 4 and 1 opportunities. When you have those opportunities in a game of this magnitude and the circumstances around it, attempting to convert should always be an option.
Wilks didn’t make many adjustments on the defensive end either. He left Henderson and Taylor in cover 3 only for them to be targeted and exposed.
After a third spin, the needle bounced to a teal panel revealing a third clue and point of blame.
Since returning from injury, Sam Darnold’s play was decent. He was playing within the offense and most importantly, he did commit turnovers. However, Darnold threw an interception and lost two fumbles. These turnovers, especially the strip sack of Darnold in the fourth aided Tampa’s comeback.
After the strip sack, Brady’s QB sneak pushed the Bucs’ lead to nine points leading up to the two-minute warning, and there were no answers or hope of a comeback afterward.
The Panthers conclude their 2022 season next Sunday as they travel to New Orleans to face the Saints.