The Carolina Panthers ran a vanilla offense in their exhibition loss to Houston, but their showing in every phase left Ron Rivera with a bad aftertaste.
There were too many sacks, too many blown assignments and not enough hustle from a team that expects to be a playoff contender in Rivera’s second season.
Granted, quarterback Cam Newton and most of the starters played only the first quarter Saturday in the 26-13 defeat. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski used the CliffsNotes version of his playbook and the Panthers did little in the way of game-planning.
But it was what Rivera saw – or didn’t see – in the second half that left him seething.
“I was truly disappointed, to be very honest with you. I expected some other guys to step up and make some plays and some guys didn’t. That is disappointing,” he said. “When you have an opportunity to play this football game, you have to play it with a sense of urgency and we didn’t do that, especially in the second half. To me that was very disappointing and I will work to get that corrected because it falls on me.”
‘Do not accept that as football’
The Panthers were outscored 13-0 in the second half, managed 13 net yards and had two turnovers. Jimmy Clausen – remember him? – was sacked five times.
“I do not accept that as football and I am disappointed in those men that are on our football team,” Rivera said.
In the locker room, he reminded his team of the promise made by Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil, who took out a full-page ad in the Observer saying this season would end in New Orleans with the Panthers hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
The Panthers lost no ground in the NFC South with the preseason loss, but Rivera told his players every game matters.
“Even though it’s preseason, you use the preseason to make a point around the league. Whether it’s your backups (or) your starters, you’re here to prove a point,” free safety Haruki Nakamura said. “That’s to let everyone know we’re going to be a physical football team. We’re going to be a sound football team, a disciplined football team.
“One thing that coach Rivera says (is) when one of our team leaders puts a big statement out there like Ryno did, it’s our job to back him up,” Nakamura added. “It’s not a coach’s job. It’s not the owner’s job. It’s our job as a team and as players to step up and prove that we’re behind him.”
Training camp winds down
The Panthers have three days left in Spartanburg before breaking camp Wednesday. They have more schemes to install, but won’t necessarily show them in the second exhibition Friday against Miami, either.
The tweaks and changes Chudzinski is making to the offense likely won’t be revealed until Week 1 in Tampa.
“We definitely were really a vanilla version of our offense out there. I mean, we’ve got a massive playbook and we only ran a little bit of it,” left tackle Jordan Gross said. “With that being said, you need to win no matter what we’re running.”
The loss stood in stark contrast to the Panthers’ last game against Houston – a 28-13 win in Week 15 against the playoff-bound Texans. Preseason or not, Rivera was not happy Saturday.
“Last year we played them in the regular season and had a good showing in their home stadium. It’s unacceptable for them to come in here and us not really perform the way we want to in our own stadium,” running back Jonathan Stewart said. “That’s the mindset of this year. And I think he wants to get his point across off the bat – that’s not acceptable.”
Hou—FG S.Graham 20, 9:20. Car—FG Mare 33, 4:11. Hou—Holliday 90 kickoff return (Bullock kick), 3:58.
Car—FG Medlock 48, 12:30. Hou—FG Bullock 21, 3:55. Car—Poole 1 run (Mare kick), :56.
Hou—FG S.Graham 37, 10:41. Hou—Grimes 3 run (Bullock kick), 3:03.
Hou—FG Bullock 52, 1:57.
|Total Net Yards||375||137|
|Time of Possession||37:41||22:19|
RUSHING—Houston, Tate 7-38, Grimes 9-37, Forsett 9-32, Meggett 6-29, Martin 1-12, Foster 1-11, Keenum 4-8, Yates 2-7. Carolina, Poole 4-26, Newton 2-16, D.Williams 4-13, J.Adams 1-4, Tolbert 1-2, D.Anderson 1-1, Vaughan 1-(minus 1).
PASSING—Houston, Yates 8-12-0-89, Schaub 3-6-1-52, Beck 4-6-0-46, Keenum 2-3-0-33. Carolina, D.Anderson 7-12-1-99, Clausen 3-6-0-24, Newton 2-6-0-17.
RECEIVING—Houston, G.Graham 3-44, Jean 2-50, Martin 2-24, Iglesias 2-23, Casey 2-15, Maehl 2-13, Daniels 1-22, Grimes 1-18, Walter 1-9, Forsett 1-2. Carolina, Murphy 2-42, Barnidge 2-34, Pilares 2-11, A.Edwards 1-13, Stewart 1-13, Ajirotutu 1-12, Vaughan 1-6, Rowells 1-5, S.Smith 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.