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Monday Morning Thoughts: It's Now or Never for Matt Rhule

Final thoughts on the Panthers' loss to the New York Giants.

After yet another uninspiring offensive performance, the Carolina Panthers dropped its ninth straight game dating back to last season with a 19-16 loss to the New York Giants.

Year three has been the year in recent Matt Rhule rebuilds (Temple and Baylor) where the program turns the corner and starts to compete for championships. When you lose the Deshaun Watson-less Cleveland Browns at home and follow that up with a road loss to a young team with a first-year head coach in Brian Daboll, it raises a few eyebrows. 

I understand much of the fanbase has wanted Rhule fired for quite some time, but I've always said to wait until year three to see what happens. David Tepper knew when he hired Rhule that it wasn't going to be a quick turnaround and with Rhule's track record, why fire a guy before the year he typically starts winning? 

The problem is, we're now in the third year and things don't look promising. An 0-2 start to the season isn't the end of the world but when you look at the upcoming schedule, those first two games were extremely important and maybe the most winnable games in the first half of the schedule. 

Now, the Panthers return home, a place they haven't won since defeating the Saints exactly one year ago today. Normally, I wouldn't consider a Week 3 game as a "must-win" but in this situation, it absolutely is. You can't afford to drop to 0-3 (0-2 at home) entering a brutal stretch that consists of games against the Cardinals, 49ers, Rams, and Buccaneers.

Will one game change the fortunes of this team? Probably not. But getting back in the win column for the first time since November 14th of last year gets the good vibes flowing again and will get the bad taste of losing out of their mouth. 

How do they do it?

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First things first, the offense has to stay on the field. When you have a healthy Christian McCaffrey, there's no reason the offense should be this inefficient. With McCaffrey on the field, he's going to draw so much attention which should open up holes in the passing game for Mayfield to attack. There's simply too much talent at the skill positions on this offense for it to be struggling as much as it has through the first two weeks of the season. 

The offensive line has to play up to its preseason expectations, especially the two tackles. Taylor Moton has had a rough start to the season which is concerning considering he's usually the most steady force along that o-line. Struggles from rookie Ikem Ekwonu are to be expected, but it's the three interior guys (Christensen, Elflein, and Corbett) who really need to play at a high level.

On the other side of the ball, it's simple. Get off the field. How many times through the first two games has the defense been in a great situation such as 3rd and 9, 3rd and 10, 3rd and 12, and fail to get a stop? It drove Phil Snow bonkers last week and it likely did the same in the second half of Sunday's game when the Giants continued to find ways to keep drives alive. 

Taking the ball away is the second piece that the Panthers' defense has to work on. No takeaways through two games isn't alarming, but it's going to be a major key moving forward to help a struggling offense. As strong as the secondary is, they've got to be aggressive and try to steal an extra possession or two per game.

I don't have a crystal ball that tells me how many wins will save Matt Rhule's job, but I can assure you this, if this team is unable to put a stop to the bleeding anytime soon David Tepper will grow impatient and make the move in-season.

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