Matt Rhule bemoans lack of conviction in Panthers’ loss at the Saints

(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule
(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /

15. Final. 24. 87. 27

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule bemoaned his side’s lack of conviction following their 27-24 loss at the New Orleans Saints.

It was a game of fine margins for the Carolina Panthers at the New Orleans Saints. This was a game that could have gone either way before the experience of Drew Brees prevailed in a narrow 27-24 loss for Matt Rhule’s men.

Had kicker Joey Slye‘s attempt to break the NFL record with a  65-yard attempt not fallen inches short, it might have been a different story. But the fact that the Carolina Panthers continue to be competitive against teams with far greater expectations on their shoulders is further proof they are heading in the right direction under the former Baylor man.

Finding a way to win tight games comes with experience, something this Panthers’ roster is relatively devoid of. This will come over time, but it is hard to deny their record would a lot more promising had they been able to come through in the clutch through the first seven games.

Still, a 3-4 record is not the end of the world. This bears more significance when one considers that many so-called experts had Carolina as leading contenders in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.

The Carolina Panthers were one play short of victory.

Rhule spoke about getting over the line and the fine margins involved when taking on teams such as the Saints, who have a proven capability of coming up big when it matters most. But he claimed they were just one play short of possibly reaching their goal.

"“Obviously disappointed with the result. Great football game back and forth. Had a chance to win it and as happens both for you and against you, you have to make one more play in the fourth quarter and we were not able to make that play at the very end. I thought the second half our defense held them to six points, I think it was six points, gave us a chance to win the game. Just couldn’t quite make it happen.”"

Had Teddy Bridgewater not been sacked for a big loss on a crucial third-down late in the game. It would have given Slye a more realistic shot of leveling things up.

There is every chance that Brees would have driven down the field for another score. But considering Carolina’s defense restricted them following some adjustments after the break, things could have come to an interesting conclusion, to say the least.

It’s another loss and a lesson learned. There will come a time when the Panthers are ready to compete with the NFL’s heavyweights consistently and experience such as this will stand them in extremely good stead when they’re ready to enter this discussion.

Just how long Carolina’s fanbase will have to wait for such an eventuality remains to be seen. There are clear deficiencies that need to be solved defensively, with their inability to get off the field in third-down situations playing a significant role in their eventual demise.

Rhule knows this is something that needs to improve, but that didn’t leave the head coach any less frustrated during his post-game presser.

"“They did a great job of converting some third and longs. (Alvin) Kamara made it tough. They won verse man to man. I think in the first half they were 6-of-6 on third down and 3-of-3 in the red zone. So, areas that we pride ourselves on. I think when you play Drew Brees you have to know he is going to be efficient. He was efficient. We didn’t make the plays or call the plays. Just a team effort on our end to get them off the field.”"

The Panthers are a work in progress, of that there is little doubt. But one thing is for certain, once they get everything figured out it should ensure the team is a force to be reckoned with.

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Rhule has worked wonders in the most difficult of circumstances so far. This is a project that needs the bigger picture in mind this season. But it’s hard not to be excited about Carolina’s chances of becoming a contender sooner rather than later.