Greg Olsen injured reserve. Ryan Kalil out. Kelvin Benjamin re-injured surgically repaired knee. Cam Newton hurt playing on surgically repaired shoulder.
With an injury bug getting to Carolina Panthers top players it finally caught up with them Sunday. They suffered a 34-13 home loss against NFC South rivals New Orleans Saints. What hurt Carolina the most were missed opportunities says head coach Ron Rivera.
“We screwed ourselves by not making plays when we had opportunities,” Rivera said during postgame interview.
Saints chose to defer after winning coin toss, giving Carolina’s offense the first possession against their defense, ranked 32nd in the league heading into the game. Panthers drove down the field deep in the red zone to set themselves up to put up seven to open the game and give them some momentum. But things didn’t go that way.
Cam Jordan blown past Panthers o-line to sack Newton early in the first quarter on a third and three inside the 10-yard line. This was the result of a miscommunication, according to Rivera, as the offensive line turned right instead of left.
“We missed protection and ending up taking a sack and kicking a field goal,” Rivera said. “We came out with a purpose to win this football game, no more, no less than they did…we had a chance to make a statement as a football team and we didn’t.”
Heading into halftime Saints led, 17-6. Panthers also lost Benjamin that half after he suffered a hit to his surgically repaired knee.
“He took a pretty good shot. The guy rolled up on the back of it,” Rivera said.
The team will be awaiting for results after doctors examine his knee Monday.
In the second half the Saints jumped on the Panthers scoring first to lead 24-6. From there they would later seal the game winning 34-13. Saints Drew Brees accumulated 220 yards through the air for three touchdowns, including a 40-yard touchdown to former Panther Ted Ginn Jr.
We were “not getting enough pressure on the quarterback,” Rivera said.
While defense lead the Panthers to victory in week 2, Newton was disappointed the offense couldn’t help the team play complementary football.
“I can’t be lackluster with the football. Having three turnovers by myself is not a good day at the office,” Newton said.
While he forced two of those throws the other wasn’t entirely Newton’s fault as one interception came off a tip. While the offense was limited to 13 points they managed to move the ball efficiently the first two drives but were held to two field goals.
“We can’t keep letting teams off the hook by having great drives and getting into the red zone but not cashing in,” Newton said.
Leading up to the game Newton was limited with practice reps due to his healing shoulder. Being on a pitch count while trying to prepare for a game is a challenge, Newton said. However, he felt mentally prepared to play week 3 and didn’t want to sit out, Newton confirmed.
As a result, Newton was held to 167 passing yards completing 17 of 26 passes throwing three interceptions. Without tight end Olsen and playing a half without Benjamin, Newton wasn’t left with much options. In the third quarter Newton managed to find the end zone running it in himself off the option but took off sparingly this game, only three times for 16 yards.
Rivera will be looking for two things when he watches this game’s tape, he said. One, to see if the coaches positioned the team to win. The second, evaluating what players did there job.
“We played hard, we just didn’t play smart. That’s why we didn’t play well enough to win, that’s why we got beat,” Rivera said.
In the coming weeks Panthers will play a better brand of offense, Newton vowed.
“Things on the offensive side have to be better and I’m proclaiming that it will,” Newton said. “There’s no need to panic.”
Week 4 Panthers (2-1) will take on the defending champions in the New England Patriots (2-1) in Foxborough.
By Gino Terrell