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Nothing Good

Carolina Looks Bad As Playoffs Dreams Grow Dim

Brett Jensen
November 17, 2019 - 6:33 pm

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The Carolina Panthers entered Sunday’s game against Atlanta with making the postseason a longshot. And after getting thoroughly beaten by the Falcons 29-3 at Bank of America Stadium, the thoughts of making the playoffs this year is truly a fantasy.

Playing in January for Carolina basically have the same odds winning the Powerball.

Carolina quarterback Kyle Allen will get much of the blame, and deservedly so, but it’s not as if any other part of the team played well enough to win.

That’s an aspect that wasn’t lost on tight end and Panthers team captain Greg Olsen.

“You get exposed quick in this league if you’re not careful,” he said. “Guys in this locker room have got to realize playing in the NFL is a lot more than just running around and looking cool. You’ve got to play.”

Here’s a brief synopsis of some of the most glaring things that were bad for Carolina (5-5):

The special teams gave up a punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter; the defense allowed Atlanta (3-7) and quarterback Matt Ryan to move at will into scoring territory all game; the offensive line was routinely embarrassed by a Falcons defensive front that was one of the worst in the NFL for sacks; Allen threw four interceptions, including three in the first half and three inside the Atlanta 20.

Allen finished going 31-of-50 for 325 yards, to go along with many turnovers.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said these are all part of the process for the young and inexperienced quarterback.

“I’m not concerned with Kyle’s learning curve,” he said. “What I’m concerned about is his growing pains. He is a young quarterback who is going to make young mistakes, but that’s why you put him out there, because, again, there is a learning curve. …

“He threw the ball in the directions he needed to, but he just didn’t do the things he was supposed to do. That’s the thing that he will learn and grow with. We are going to go and we are going to live with his learning pains because that’s what the game is all about. …

“He’s going to get better.”

For his part, Allen doesn’t want to hear any excuse about the amount of games he's played or what his age is.

“I’ve got to take these things as learning experiences and understand that I can’t make these same mistakes because it ends up with us losing the game,” said Allen, who started the ninth game of his career. “I’ve got to play good football if this team wants to win. Like I said this last week, it doesn’t matter how old I am or how many starts I have, this is a really good football team and if I keep turning the ball over, it’s not putting us in position to win.

“I’ve got to learn those things in the film room and on the practice fields so that it doesn’t happen in a game and I just need to play better. It doesn’t matter how old I am.”

It was so bad after the first two quarters that when the team went to the locker room at halftime, the fans booed. Of course, they also booed earlier in the season in Week 2 against Tampa.

Even with the bad results, Rivera said his team wasn’t giving up or going through the motions.

“The thing that we have to look at is how hard did we play,” Rivera said. “So, to sit there and attack somebody, whether he wanted to play hard or not, that’s not fair. You make mistakes. People make mistakes. That’s life.

“You are going to make mistakes in life. Are you living life to the fullest? Are we playing football to the fullest? Are we giving a good effort? Sure seemed like it.”

However, the Panthers are going to have to be pretty much mistake-free the rest of the way to reach the playoffs.

While Allen, who made three very bad throws that resulted in interceptions in the first half, the offensive line wasn’t any better.

In fact, a real argument could be made that it was even worse that Allen’s play, or that the bad protection caused Allen to make some of those bad throws.

No matter what player played at what position on the offensive line front, the Falcons ran through and around them to get in Allen’s face and to prevent star running back and MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey from doing much of anything.

McCaffrey finished with 70 yards rushing on 14 carries. He also added 121 yards receiving on 11 receptions.

On the other hand, Allen was hit 10 times and sacked five times. This coming from a defense that two weeks ago had just seven sacks all season.

But even had the offense of the Panthers been able to produce points, it’s not as if the defense could’ve stopped Atlanta from scoring.

The secondary for Carolina struggled to slow Ryan and his receivers down even a tiny bit as receivers Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones combined for 14 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown.

For good measure, Ryan was 21-of-31 for 311 yards and a touchdown.

“Matt Ryan is a former MVP,” Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “This team has been to a Super Bowl within the past five years. Just because the team is struggling leading up to your game doesn’t mean you can’t be motivated.

Then there were the special teams, which was anything but special.

Atlanta scored its first touchdown on a 78-yard punt return by former Panther Kenjon Barner in the first quarter to take a 10-0 lead.

It was all downhill from there for Carolina.

At a minimum, the Panthers have to win at least five of their last six games, which is no easy task considering they have two games remaining against New Orleans, and one each against Seattle, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Washington.

And it all likelihood, they probably need to win all six.

“You can just play back what I said to you guys after the 49ers game: Nobody cares, nobody feels sorry for you,” Olsen said. “Next week, New Orleans is going to try to kill us. That’s the way it goes.”

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