Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, November 17, 2019 7:01 pm

Falcons 29, Panthers 3, and, gawd, what an awful game

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 7:01 pm
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Hooper and I went to Charlotte for the game, and I am heartily sorry that we did. I said it at the beginning of the season and I will say it again: The Panthers are not a good football team. Worse, after some progress, they are regressing.

This team’s chances have depended all year on the performance of QB1, and this is what I saw from the stands: Kyle Allen’s performance today was miserable, with four picks, three of them in the end zone; five sacks; and 11 QB hits. The passing game was a triple whammy: Receivers weren’t getting separation, the O-line wasn’t giving Allen time, and Allen was making some bad choices and bad throws. Even one of his attempts to just throw the ball away turned into an interception. Sure, he ended up with 300-plus passing yards, but much of that came during garbage time.

One remarkably unsuccessful passing attempt for a TD came on what looked like a busted play, when Allen throw the ball into coverage rather than simply running in from about the 12 when he had a wide-open lane in front of him. I have suspected for some time, and I am not the only one who suspects this, that Allen is being coached not to run because Panthers coaches know that if he gets hurt, Will Grier is their only other option and that Grier is not an NFL-caliber quarterback. At halftime, I thought seriously about starting a “KAEP-ER-NICK!” chant, and some people sitting around us said they thought it wouldn’t have been a bad idea.

The defense actually had a decent day, limiting the Falcons to 3 points total in their first three possessions, which started at the Panthers’ 25, the Panthers’ 28, and the 50. It held the Falcons to 54 rush yards on the day. But the Falcons’ Matt Ryan threw for 311 yards, 143 and a score to Calvin Ridley and 91 more to Julio Jones. And there were times when Luke Kuechly’s own defense seemed to be confusing and confounding him.

I will take a moment to congratulate Christian McCaffrey, who combined 14 carries for 70 yards with 11 catches for 121 yards, making him, if I understood the PA announcer correctly, the fastest player ever to 1,000 rush yards and 500 receiving yards in a season. UPDATE: Per ESPN, McCaffrey now has 246 career receptions, the most recorded by any running back in his first three seasons, breaking the record of 238 held by Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson. He also has 2,592 rush yards and 2,035 receiving yards in his career, joining Herschel Walker as the only NFL player to top 2,500 rush yards and 2,000 receiving yards in his first three seasons.

That said, while the Panthers faithful continue to chant “MVP!” at him, realistically, with the years people like Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson are having, McCaffrey needs about 10 more TDs and/or for the Panthers to finish 11-5 with a playoff spot to even have a chance. One thing is clear: Despite all he does, he cannot, himself, carry this team to the playoffs.

Right now, the Panthers are 3 games behind the Seahawks and 2 1/2 games behind the Vikings in the race for an NFC wild card spot. They could still make the playoffs, but they have another game against the Falcons, two against the division-leading Saints, and games against the Redskins, Colts and Seahawks. Of those six, only the Washington game looks definitely winnable — but at 2-7 going in today, the Falcons looked beatable, too.

The NFL’s cosmically complicated playoff formula says otherwise, but realistically, the Panthers have lost all they can lose now without forfeiting a playoff spot. Players — and coaches — now need to be playing for their jobs, because I sense a big housecleaning coming after this season. And after what I saw today, I would welcome it.

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