4 major observations from Sam Darnold’s performance vs. Steelers

(Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images) Sam Darnold
(Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images) Sam Darnold /
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Sam Darnold
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Sam Darnold was forced to do more

There was always going to be a time down the stretch when Sam Darnold needed to come out of his comfort zone. That turned out to be Week 15 with almost no help from his offensive line or running game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After gaining just 21 rushing yards, the Carolina Panthers had to tear up their blueprint and put the game in Darnold’s hands. The No. 3 overall selection in 2018 held up well in the circumstances, but it was always going to be a challenge of epic proportions once the Steelers got a two-touchdown lead.

Carolina had opportunities to claw it back. Darnold made some beautiful throws in key moments, but the team just couldn’t find the right formula when reaching the red zone, settling for field goals when touchdowns were absolutely vital.

If the running game isn’t working, fair enough. But when the protection in front of Darnold also crumbled for the first time since he assumed command of the starting job, the cards were completely stacked against the signal-caller all things considered.

Hopefully, this was just a blip and the Panthers can finish the season strongly. Darnold proved he can make plays when needed, but it’s hard to look at how this team is set up right now and think they can succeed without everything clicking into place every week on offense.