Another Sunday, another loss for Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers as they fell to the New York Giants 25-3, dropping their record to 3-4 on the season. After getting off to such a hot start and making a pair of trades to bolster the cornerback room, it felt like the Panthers were ready to make a run at the playoffs this season. Not next year or two years from now, but now. Over the last four weeks, things have fallen to the waste side and it all starts with the quarterback, Sam Darnold.
In the team's four losses, Darnold has thrown seven interceptions, has a couple of fumbles, and is responsible for a safety by throwing the ball into the ground in the end zone. Things are starting to get a bit uncomfortable for Darnold and you can see it in his play. In Sunday's loss to the Giants, Darnold was yanked in the 4th quarter after going 16/25 for 111 yards and one interception.
"I just felt like we needed some sort of a spark," head coach Matt Rhule said. "Not that anything was necessarily him, it's all of them. [I was] hoping P.J. [Walker] would go out there and make a run or do something to get us going. Sam will be our quarterback next week. Sam will be our quarterback moving forward."
Rhule told reporters that he wanted to wait to make the change at quarterback until he felt like he absolutely needed to. That decision came after a ball was thrown low and behind a wide-open Colin Thompson that would have kept the drive alive.
"We just came out of halftime and I was just like, alright, this just doesn't feel right. It feels flat. It's not how it's supposed to feel. It was 3rd and 2 and the ball didn't hit Colin [Thompson]. Does he drift? I don't know but I could feel it was like hey, it's at the tipping point. We're now or never. I think I waited one more drive and then I went ahead and did it. The last thing I wanted to do is embarrass somebody and I know this is going to be the story this week. Sam will define who he is. This is up to him.
"I think quarterbacks go through ups and downs and highs and lows. Daniel Jones went through the same kind of game probably last week but he came out tonight and played great. Sam's got to take care of the football. Sam's got to throw on time and if it's not there, find a check down. We can't be driving with a chance to take the lead and throw interceptions."
With the Panthers sliding down the standings each passing the week, the rumors may start to fly around about Deshaun Watson, who is currently being pursued by the Miami Dolphins, according to multiple reports. If not Watson, the Panthers could still be on the phones near the November 2nd trade deadline to find an answer at quarterback. Remember, GM Scott Fitterer is "in on every deal."
Following the game, Matt Rhule stood behind his quarterback and said that he will be the team's starter moving forward and that this week's performance likely doesn't change their approach to the deadline.
"I can't look to the future but I don't believe it will. Everyone's disappointed right now. There's emotions flying around and all those things but you saw the game, it wasn't very good in any regard."
Why does Matt Rhule have so much trust in Darnold? Well, that's a good question. And to be honest, I don't believe he does. What else is he supposed to say? There have been a couple of instances, including Sunday, where Rhule said that guys need to play really well around him. Protection, catching balls, running the football, etc. Although that is true, to me, that sounds like a quarterback that needs a whole lot of help to win football games.
Rhule did, however, point out a few things that he's noticed from Darnold during the losing streak that he must get back to.
"Throwing on time, taking the open receiver, being patient, protecting the football, not throwing off his back foot. I think there was sometimes on third down where guys were open and we're predetermining, we're thinking. Again, I understand that young quarterbacks go through that."
Next Sunday, the Panthers will travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons and No. 14 will once again be under center.
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