It hasn’t been an optimal start to the season for the Panthers after a 37-27 loss in Seattle drops them to 0-3. It was another case of being in contention by the fourth quarter, but not being able to catch up. The offense improved this week under the command of Andy Dalton, but defensive struggles kept the Panthers behind. Now hosting the Vikings, who also have yet to win, the Panthers will look to pick up a week 4 victory.
Positives from Week Three
It was a stalemate for the first half of the game, as the teams went to the locker room with a halftime score of 13-12. It started as an impressive showing for a banged-up Carolina defense, but they faltered down the line.
As for the offense, they seemed to find their rhythm for the first time all season in an explosive second half. Dalton’s veteran presence showed, as he stepped in and threw a whopping 58 passes. He managed to complete 34 of those for 361 yards, as well as two touchdowns. He displayed a connection with Adam Thielen, who hauled in 11 catches for 145 yards and a score. DJ Chark also had an impressive touchdown on one of his four catches.
Dalton seems to have breathed some life into this offense, so we’ll see if it carries over when Bryce Young returns. Assuming that’s this week, he’ll have an extra motivated Thielen, as he faces his old team.
Negatives from Week Three
It seems as though the defensive injuries started to affect gameplay this week, as the Seahawks scored touchdowns on three of their last four full drives. Kenneth Walker III and DK Metcalf both looked unstoppable, punishing the defense on multiple occasions.
Another glaring issue was the penalties, particularly from starting tackle Ikem Ekwonu. He accounted for four of the team’s eight false start penalties, which is an egregious total, even in a notoriously loud stadium. Ekwonu even false-started on back-to-back plays at one point in the game.
Ekwonu was a breakout candidate after a strong rookie season, but has yet to find his footing this season. He, along with the rest of the offensive line, will need to step up their game in order to keep Young healthy after his return.
It seems likely that Young will return to his duties as the starting quarterback after missing a week due to an ankle injury. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for numerous other Panthers, who will be sidelined in week four. The newest of these is safety Xavier Woods, who is expected to miss at least four weeks with a hamstring injury. He joins fellow defensive back Jaycee Horn, who’s also currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.
The linebacker room has also taken a beating, after back-to-back weeks with injuries. Last week Shaq Thompson suffered a fibula injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season. This week we saw Frankie Luvu suffer a hip injury, but he isn’t expected to miss any time.
Things aren’t too much better on the offensive side of the ball, as Jonathan Mingo was limited in practice after a head injury last week. Starting guards Austin Corbett and Brady Christensen also remain on the injured reserve with their respective injuries.
What to Expect
They may be winless thus far, but the Vikings will be bringing a very talented crew to Carolina for Sunday’s game. This team went 13-4 just last season, and still houses arguably the best receiver in football in Justin Jefferson. The Vikings love to throw the ball, which could play into their favor as they face a banged-up Carolina secondary.
Stopping Jefferson will be key, but they boast an impressive second option in the form of Jordan Addison. Finding a way to limit both will be imperative if they hope to win this game. It’s impossible to fully lock these two up, but keeping pace and capitalizing could present the Panthers with a chance to win. Minnesota’s opponents have been able to do this thus far, as they sit winless despite Kirk Cousins leading the league in passing yards.
As for the Panthers offense, they’ll look to carry over the momentum from last week, but with their rookie quarterback in charge. If Young doesn’t progress well enough to play, Dalton seems plenty fit to run the offense again. Either way, more high-level production will be necessary in order to keep pace this week.
Three moderately close losses may be gut-wrenching for fans, but it’s important to analyze the situation. This new staff and new group of players are still working on growing together, and they seem to be improving each week.
All of the other teams in the NFC South also lost in week three, meaning Carolina is still only two games out. While that’s fun to look at, the focus should remain on developing Young as the franchise quarterback. With it potentially being only his third career start this week, it’s far too early to panic. Wins may be hard to come by for the first half of the season, but fans should hold out as the bigger picture slowly comes together.
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Featured image courtesy of the Carolina Panthers.
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