The Panthers dropped to 3-3 on the season after a disappointing 34-28 overtime loss to the Vikings in Week 6.
The Panthers dropped their third straight game of the season after a disappointing Week 6 performance and now sit at 3-3 after six games. Carolina looked disjointed all day, and despite a heroic effort late in the fourth quarter they couldn’t get the job done in overtime and fell 34-28 to the Vikings. Losing sucks, especially when you lose like the Panthers did yesterday. Such is life as a Panthers fan, I suppose.
Alright, that’s enough of an intro. I’m running out of things to say about this team, so below are three takeaways I had from yesterday’s game (instead of the usual five), in no particular order.
Sam Darnold is in a New York state of mind
Last week I wrote this after the Panthers lost to the Eagles:
We knew there was a chance the day would come when Sam Darnold finally turned back into a pumpkin, and that day was yesterday. His stat line was … well, it was a stat line: He was 21-of-37 for 177 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions and he was sacked three times for a total of 19 yards. I’m not going to mince words here: He was terrible yesterday, and the three interceptions certainly didn’t help convince his detractors that last week’s game against Dallas was just an aberration.
Well, he had another stinker against the Vikings. Yesterday, Darnold was 17-of-41 for 207 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 1 fumble lost, and he was sacked four times for a total of 19 yards. Before the final drive when the Panthers tied the game late in the fourth quarter, Darnold only had 124 passing yards, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception. I don’t want to drag the guy, and to be fair to him he had at least six passes (if not more) that were just flat out drops after he hit his receiver(s) square in the hands, but I haven’t seen a Panthers quarterback play this awful since 2010. There were times in the first 58 minutes of the game that I seriously wanted to see PJ Walker get a shot just to see what would happen if they put him out there.
I also said this last week after the Eagles game:
I’ve been a proponent of Darnold and have said that he has potential to be good here, and I still think there’s a chance he can actually turn his career around, but he didn’t do himself any favors yesterday. The Panthers had no business losing to the Eagles, and Darnold played a large part in the game turning into a disaster in the second half with missed throws and interceptions. I’m not ready to write him off completely just yet, but I’m starting to lean in that direction after seeing him make the mistakes he’s made over the last two weeks.
The Sam Darnold I saw yesterday was the same guy the Jets gave up on. He was the same guy who said he was seeing ghosts. He was not the same guy we saw in the first three weeks of the 2021 season, and after six games I’m not sure which set of three Darnold performances to believe. Is Sam Darnold the guy who in the first three games looked like he has the potential to be great, or is he the guy who in the last three games looked like a career backup who has no business being a starter? Right now I’m leaning towards the latter, and it’s going to take a few weeks of quality play to convince me to go back over to the other side.
The Panthers have a chance to end their three-game losing streak when they face the 1-5 Giants next week. It’s a road game, so Darnold will make his first trip to MetLife Stadium since leaving the Jets. Will he be able to put the ghosts of his past behind him? Will he find a way to bring back the guy we saw in Weeks 1-3? We’re going to find out together, and I think we’ll have our answer to the question of whether or not he’s the right guy for the Panthers at approximately 4:25 p.m. ET next Sunday.
Robby Anderson and Sam Darnold need to figure things out
I don’t know what’s going on between Darnold and Anderson, but they are completely out of sync with each other despite being teammates on two different teams within the last four years. Anderson was targeted 11 times yesterday — one week after blowing up on the sideline in the fourth quarter against the Eagles — and he had 3 receptions for 11 yards. Before the final drive of the game (where Anderson caught the touchdown that set up the game-tying 2-point conversion attempt), Anderson had 1 reception for 0 yards and what felt like 37 drops.
I’m not going to put all the blame on either player, because both of them had issues yesterday. There were a few times where Darnold threw a catchable ball to Anderson where he just dropped it, and there were times where Darnold made a bad throw. Both players were responsible for the lack of connection, and at times it seemed like Darnold was forcing the ball to Anderson because of the sideline incident last week. I don’t know if that’s what happened or not, but that’s what it looked like. Hopefully the two of them will find a way to make it work, because with Christian McCaffrey on injured reserve and guaranteed to be out for at least two more weeks, we need Anderson to be a key contributor on offense to take some of the pressure off of DJ Moore.
Keith Taylor made the most of his opportunity
I want to end this column on a positive note, so I’m going to give Keith Taylor the shout-out that he deserves after he stepped up in a big way. Yesterday, Taylor had 10 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble and 3 passes defensed in what looked like a coming out party for the rookie cornerback. He gave up one touchdown reception to Adam Thielen, but in his defense there was absolutely nothing he could have done to prevent the score. Kirk Cousins threw a perfect pass in the perfect spot, and Thielen made a perfect catch in the end zone. Other than that one play he looked great, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him over the next few weeks because he looks like he could end up being a late-round steal for Phil Snow’s defense.
What do you think, Panthers fans? What stood out to you yesterday? Are you ready to give up on this team yet? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us!