For the first time since Week two of the 2021 season, the Panthers have a home win and again it was at the expense of the divisional rival New Orleans Saints. Behind elite special teams and defensive play, the Panthers hung on for a 22-14 win in what was a vital win for head coach Matt Rhule and his first since week ten of the 2021 season.
Panthers Defense & ST show out.
The Carolina defense won them this game make no mistake about it, after having zero turnovers in the first two weeks the team rectified that in the first quarter. Frankie Luvu who was imperious on the defense again stripped Saints running back Alvin Kamara, the fumble was scooped up by Marquis Haynes who took the ball 44 yards for the score.
Carolina also had Jameis Winston under duress for the majority, despite only giving up one sack the Panthers had Winston running for his life for most of the game. If it wasn’t for a couple of prayers throws from Winston and an incredible touchdown catch from Marquez Calloway Winston’s stats would have looked a lot less favorably.
We saw some players on this defense step up in a big way Derrick Brown who some have been questioning found constant pressure on the interior as well as coming in with a big man INT. Safety Jeremy Chinn also had a monster game, Chinn finished the game with 11 total tackles and a sack, the sack being a vital third downplay forcing the Saints into a long field goal which Will Lutz sent wide.
We also saw the Panthers’ Special Teams unit with some huge plays, a blocked FG by Henry Anderson late in the first half saw the Saints lose any momentum going into the break. We also saw an imperious day from All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker who dropped four of his six punts inside the 20 including a fantastic final punt which was downed on the one-yard line leaving the Saints practically no chance to drive down the field.
We also saw the benefit of the Panthers not letting Chuba Hubbard return kicks with Laviska Shenault handling kick-off duties, Shenault ending the day with 54 return yards on two returns. But the most impressive thing about the Panthers’ special teams unit was the reaction of coordinator Chris Tabor when Anderson blocked the field goal.
Panthers offense struggle again.
However, despite the win things were not so impressive on the offensive side of the ball. We once again saw an underwhelming performance from starting Quarterback Baker Mayfield, Mayfield finished for the second week in a row with his completion percentage under 50% although one positive for Mayfield was, he didn’t turn the ball over.
Once again, we saw DJ Moore struggle to impact the game, Moore finished the game with only a single reception and two rushes ending the game with just 15 scrimmage yards. If the Panthers and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo want to find more consistency going forward, they must get Moore involved on a more regular basis.
We once again saw Christian McCaffrey show why he is one of the best running backs in the league, for the second week in a row McCaffrey logged 100+ yards rushing this time ending the game with 108 yards on 25 carries. While McCaffrey is yet to make his mark on the Panthers passing game as he finished the game with just two receptions for seven yards it’s very positive to see his impact in the running game, and it’s positive to see the offensive line, especially the interior creating running lanes for CMC.
A final shoutout of course to Laviska Shenault, after being traded to Carolina from Jacksonville the former second-round pick was inactive for the first two weeks as he became accustomed to the offense. Shenault was finally active on Sunday and certainly made an impact on the game, ending the contest with 144 total yards on just four total touches. Shenault certainly endeared himself to Panthers’ fans with his first touch on a designed screen Shenault make a defender miss and took it 67 yards to the house.
While it wasn’t all promising for the Panthers, they found a way to win and that was vitally important for head coach Matt Rhule as he kept saying how “close” the Panthers were. The big factor for the Panthers here was the performance of the defense this unit has the fundamentals to be an elite unit, if this Panthers offense, which is still learning Ben McAdoo’s system, can start to click the Panthers could start to string some wins together.