The Carolina Panthers were hoping to build off a dominant performance against the New York Giants, but the exact opposite happened as the Arizona Cardinals took advantage of Carolina’s miscues and came away with a 22-6 victory. The loss dropped the Panthers to 1-3 on the season and once again changed the tune surrounding the team. That good feeling vibe from the Giants game is long gone with the stench of the loss to the Cardinals now hovering over the team.
Instead of giving the highlights of the game I’m going to take a look at the three guys who seem to always receive the most postgame attention regardless of the outcome.
Ian Rapoport reported early this morning that the Carolina front office had begun the process of finding potential replacements for Rivera. This isn’t something other teams don’t do with coaches who teams are on the fence about, but the fact that it got made public is surprising. With Rivera needing a playoff birth more than likely to retain his job this latest loss to the Cardinals only makes that path more difficult.
Unlike the Buffalo game where a large share of the blame deserved to fall squarely on his shoulders that isn’t the case in this one. Rivera actually managed one of the better games of his career. He made the correct gamble in going for it on a fourth-and-short that wasn’t converted, he won his first challenge of the season and he managed his timeouts well. But that isn’t going to matter because the team didn’t win.
The NFL is a results business and the results haven’t been kind with Rivera on the sideline.
Schula had an awful game calling plays. Yes, he wasn’t helped out by drops (more on that later) but he abandoned the running game in the second half. Carolina had 14 attempts for 74 yards heading into the locker room and finished the game with 20 attempts for 95 yards. Even with Rob Chudzinski gone the Panthers still haven’t ran the ball enough. With an offensive line that has struggled to pass protect it would make sense to lean on the running game, but that hasn’t happened.
One of the most egregious mistakes he made was calling a pass play on first down from the Panthers own five-yard line after Amini Silatolu had just left the game with a knee injury. That seemed like an obvious situation where you hammer the ball on back-to-back plays and see where it gets you.
This is the second time Carolina has been held to seven points or less this season. With Cam Newton at quarterback that is unacceptable. Speaking of Newton…
People will look back at this as one of Newton’s worse performances, but it easily could have gone the other way. Steve Smith dropped a touchdown on third down that was the beginning of a failure to convert in clutch situations. Brandon LaFell dropped an easy pass on fourth down in the red zone on a drive that seemed destined to end with points. After those two drops it seemed Cam lost the flow he had out of the gate.
He came out firing decisive lasers to his receivers, but as the game progressed he held on to the ball too long and forced some bad throws. One of Newton’s biggest issues is locking on to receivers, a problem that is often common for young quarterbacks. As great of a weapon as Smith is this is a game where you want to avoid forcing him the ball with Patrick Peterson matched up against him and look to get other guys involved.
The final line for Newton wasn’t pretty. He turned the ball over four times and sacked himself on more than one occasion by not getting rid of the football. There are plenty of excuses you can come up with for Cam, but there’s no question he needs to get better at playing through adversity. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen him, or at least I can’t remember, take the offense down on a drive after things weren’t breaking the Panthers way on that particular day.