The Carolina Panthers' four-game winning streak evaporated quicker than Bay Area fog during last Sunday's 51-13 loss at San Francisco. Along with that vanished the momentum collected during Kyle Allen's run as the starting quarterback, as well as perhaps some unrealistic perceptions regarding Carolina's place on the 2019 NFL food chain.
However, Ron Rivera's crew can hit the reset button again this Sunday when the Tennessee Titans visit Bank of America Stadium. And there are enough striking similarities between the teams -- as well as questions lingering from the Beatdown by the Bay -- to make an otherwise ho-hum game into something more compelling.
Here are five things to consider as gameday approaches (Sunday, 1 PM ET on CBS):
- The Titans lead the all-time series between the teams 3-2, with Carolina winning their last matchup, 27-10, during the magical 2015 season. However, the Panthers have never beaten the Titans in Charlotte, with the wins coming in Nashville and, before that, while the Titans were still the Houston Oilers.
- Tennessee stumbled early, starting off 2-2 before slipping to 2-4. But a quarterback change -- replacing Marcus Mariota with Ryan Tannehill -- has led to a recent two-game winning streak. Or let's put it this way: Tennessee replaced a former Heisman Trophy-winning, franchise quarterback with a signal-caller who played at Texas A&M. Sound familiar? It might not matter who's at quarterback for the Titans, however, unless they can find some continuity along the offensive line -- something that likely won't happen this week with center Ben Jones missing practice because of a concussion.
- Carolina's focus likely won't be on what Tennessee does or doesn't do, nor who's even taking snaps. Instead, the Panthers have a laundry list of their own issues to address. And the problems range from a defense that allowed the 49ers to rush for 232 rushing yards while scoring 51 points to letting quarterback Kyle Allen get sacked seven times.
- One area of interest will be how Allen rebounds not only from the first loss in six NFL starts, but from the first interceptions of his NFL career. San Francisco picked Allen off three times and limited him to 158 yards on 19 of 37 with no touchdowns -- that translates to a 28.9 quarterback rating. Rivera announced on Monday that he'll start again this week, with Cam Newton still rehabbing a foot injury.
- A positive: Christian McCaffrey's production was one of few things from the four-game win streak to make an appearance in San Francisco. McCaffrey rolled up 155 totals yards (117 rushing, 38 receiving) and had a 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that cut the 49ers' lead to 27-13 -- the closest Carolina would get before San Francisco peeled off 24 unanswered points. A concern: Greg Olsen continues to be an afterthought in the passing game. Olsen caught both of his targets for 13 yards. It was the second time in three games that Olsen only had two passes thrown his way and he's been targeted merely 40 times all season -- 18 of which came during the first two games when Newton was throwing passes. Olsen has caught 24 of those passes for 291 yards (both good for fourth on the team) and is tied for the team lead with two touchdowns. It could be a sign of a player moving into a reduced role, dealing with declining skills or merely a shift in offensive philosophy. Or, perhaps, a quarterback who simply looks elsewhere.