Panthers Paralyzed by Julio Jones, an Addled Offensive Line, a Pitiful Pass Rush, and Sucky Secondary Play

It was an ugly sight as Carolina Panther fans watched Julio Jones catch 12 balls for 300 yards, leading the Atlanta Falcons to a 48-33 victory. This game wasn’t ever close either. Even though the Panthers pulled within 8 points twice in the final four minutes, Atlanta’s offense made Carolina’s defense foolish and any hopes last minute comeback were vanquished when Derek Anderson lofted at lazy ball up, that should have been an easy throwaway, was intercepted.

Looked Bad from the Beginning

On the first possession, Cam Newton was penalized for taunting after flipping the ball at a Falcons player after converting a third and one.  It set Carolina back deep in their zone and they never recovered.  The Panthers defense didn’t give them much of a chance either. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones struck at will, putting up 34 points by midway through the fourth quarter. Aside from one tipped ball near the goal line which Kurt Coleman returned for a touchdown, the Panthers defensive line struggled to generate pressure and the secondary play was nauseating.

Death by Jones

Julio Jones is the best receiver in the NFL. If he isn’t, the Panthers secondary sure made him look like it. Jones single-handedly killed the Panthers. He made Benewikere’ look foolish, Daryl Worley look terrible as usual, and James Bradbury family submit his photo to be printed on the back of milk cartons.  Jones finished the day with 12 catches, 300 yds., and 1 touchdown. 

The problem wasn’t that Julio beat the Panthers secondary. It was that they couldn’t do anything to slow him down, even when they knew it was the only thing they needed to do. The Falcons finished the day with just 90 rushing yards and probablyy could have won without any.. 

The Panthers secondary is bad. It’s hard to argue otherwise. As most of you have already pointed out, Josh Norman was missed sorely today. 

The Panthers Offensive Line is Offensive

The Panthers sorely missed Michael Oher, who sat out the game because of a concussion.  The Panthers hoped Mike Remmers could move to the left and Daryll Williams would take over the right tackle position. They both struggled. When they weren't getting beat, they were beating themselves. Remmers was penalized on three consecutive plays in the red zone. Remmers hasn’t really had any experience at left tackle and any experience he gains going forward likely won't be pleasant. 

Darryl Williams was just as bad. Guys slipped past him repeatedly and he never looked on balance or in control.  Remmers job is clearly safe.

The inability to pass-protect is obvious. It could be the reason Carolina can't run the ball either.  Carolina simply can’t establish a running attack with a few awkward read-option plays and an offensive line that can't move a little old lady in a wheelchair. 

The Pass Rush of Panthers Past is Dead

It’s non-existent. There’s hardly a pulse on this defensive line. Carolina can’t create any pressure without blitzing, which is contrary to the Panthers defensive philosophy. Carolina’s defense scheme relies on letting Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis  float freely and react to  plays. The Panthers defense has always struggled when the linebackers have to  assist too much stopping the run and are the main source of defensive pressure.  The only time Carolina’s defense sniffed Matt Ryan was when blitzing. Ryan would then simply heave it up to the side the blitz was coming looking for the one-on-one matchups that the Falcons won all day. Charles Johnson didn’t do anything but look old and Kony Ealy was missing. The backups, who played more than usual, didn’t do anything either. Even the push up the middle from Kawaan Short was controlled easily by the Falcons. Without better play, from what is supposed to be the Panthers  main defensive strength, Carolina’s defense will continue to surrender points because the secondary is only worse.

Sucky Secondary

Cover your children’s eyes, it’s ugly. The Panthers had zero answer for Julio Jones. Bene’ Benwikere is likely filing assault charges on Julio because he was abused all game. Even the one pass he did defend, he interfered and only broke it up because the ball was underthrown. Everywhere we looked it was bad. Daryl Worley is the worst and the safety play was bad. The new guy, Michael Griffin, played more than expected. I didn’t get to watch him as closely as I liked. It was difficult to see through the tears, but I do remember him looking slow and taking a bad angle as Julio blew past for a 75-yd touchdown. 

Add Injury to Insult:

Cam Newton is concussed. It’s amazing it took this long. Newton was crippled at the goal line after showboating in for a 2-point conversion. It wasn’t a good day for Cam. He fell into his old ways of inaccurate passing and holding the ball too long. Some of this was play-calling and some of this was frustration, fluster, and stubbornness.  Thomas Davis also pulled up lame with a hamstring injury, and the secondary now collectively suffers from PTSD. 

Coaching was a Big Part of the Problem:

Carolina walked into halftime down by just seven. If the score hadn’t been displayed, you’d think they were losing by 21 points. The team was off their game. The secondary was out of sorts and the offensive line wasn’t getting it done. Time to adjust, right? Well not if you have a coaching staff led by Ron Rivera and Mike Shula. It’s never been one of their character strengths. These guys are more like “if it ain’t working, try it harder” type guys. Shula refused to adjust by using quick passes to slow the Falcons pass rush. On one third down, Carolina needed 3 yards for the first down. Cam Newton threw a pass to Greg Olsen 15 yards down the field, and he hadn’t even looked back yet. 

On defense, things were just as bad. Julio Jones, I know I’ve said it repeatedly, but he destroyed Carolina. At some point, I say just put two corners and a safety on the guy. Heck, try putting Shaq on him for the first 3 yards and then still commit a corner and safety to him.  Nope, he couldn’t be stopped and it didn’t look as if they were even trying.
It’s Bad when Dave Gettleman is Getting Called Out:

Roster Bigger Part of the Problem

I’ve been avid Dave Gettleman supporter. The team has flourished under his leadership. Carolina’s problems, however, are 75% personnel. Josh Norman’s departure left a secondary that is experienced and frankly not good. Michael Oher’s injury only highlights a positional deficiency that was there even when he was playing. Mike Remmers is the starting right tackle, with little option behind him.  There isn’t any depth on this offensive line either. There isn’t a guy in waiting developing or nipping at the starter’s heels. It’s three positions that are simply on Dave Gettleman: safety, corner, and offensive tackle. All of them have been horrid. 

Frustration is Setting In

Frustration is setting in. Cam showed it before he got his bell rung. The Panthers defense showed it as they sucked wind pursuing Julio all day, and Trai Turner expressed it on social media after the game. 

Fans are feeling it too!

So where do you think we are at? Is the sky falling or is this something Dave Gettleman and Ron River can figure a way to remedy? Let it out...we're in this together. We are also offering free group therapy Tuesday night at 10 pm on the C3 Carolina Panthers Podcast. We will get through this together.

By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
Follow his work on Twitter @Cat_Chronicles