After showing promise in the first two weeks of the season, the Carolina Panthers have fallen back down to Earth as they lost to the New Orleans Saints 34-13 on Sunday. The defense did not look strong and could not contain Drew Brees. Cam Newton and the offense weren’t able to provide any support either as the Panthers looked beat across the board. What made it even worse is that Kelvin Benjamin exited the game in the first quarter with an apparent knee injury. It’s not sure how serious the injury is or how long he’ll be out, but the Panthers could be going into next weeks game against the New England Patriots without their top pass catchers, Benjamin and Greg Olsen.
Although Cam Newton was pretty much playing without Benjamin or Olsen to throw to, he looked very ineffective Sunday and was unable to torch the fairly weak Saints’ defense. Newton finished the day completing 17 of 26 passes for 167 yards, and throwing three interceptions, two of which were in the fourth quarter. After he threw his third interception, Derek Anderson replaced him for the final two drives of the game. Rookie Christian McCaffrey was Newton’s only reliable target, gathering nine receptions for 107 yards. Devin Funchess received the next highest in receptions with four. It’s not only an issue that Newton can’t get the ball to his few receivers, but he has nobody he can rely on to get open and make plays. The Panthers are going to need to hope that Benjamin comes back and plays next week, otherwise they are going to have to rely on someone to step up or sign a free agent because their receiving core is way too shallow for the offense to bounce back.
The other thing that is concerning is how Brees was able to decimate the Panthers’ defense. After two weeks of playing tremendously against the Buffalo Bills and the San Francisco 49er’s, allowing only six points total across both games, it would have definitely been a good sign if the defense could stop an offense that was much more powerful than their previous matchups. It was believed that they would stand up to the challenge, but they allowed 220 passing yards and 150 rushing yards and were unable to force any turnovers. It’s concerning because the Panthers defense was tested and failed miserably in their own home against a team they should have been able to put up a better fight against. It didn’t help that Newton kept throwing interceptions and not allowing the defense to get a break off of the field, constantly forcing the defense to battle with the talented Brees.
The Panthers now have a 2-1 record, but the team is trending downward very fast. With the offense continuing to struggle against one of the worst defenses in the NFL and possibly losing their other top receiver, it is certain Newton will continue his poor playing against even stronger defenses. Also, after the defense failed to put a hold on Drew Brees and the Saints, it’s unlikely they can play any better against the remaining big passing teams on their schedule like the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, and the Detroit Lions. The team has a ton of talent, but injuries and poor production from key players could be the Panthers downfall.
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