Instant analysis from the Carolina Panthers’ 41-38 loss at New Orleans:
The worst fears concerning the secondary have been realized.
Josh Norman is gone. Bené Benwikere is gone. Second-round pick James Bradberry is injured.
Playing in their place Sunday were rookie starters Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez, and veteran Teddy Williams, best known for his special teams work. It went as you would expect – or worse in the case of Worley, who left in the second half with a concussion.
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Worley and Sanchez both gave up touchdowns, and Drew Brees became the second passer in the past three games to pass for at least 450 yards.
Dave Gettleman’s secondary experiment has failed. Miserably.
The Panthers’ offense showed fight.
Carolina fell behind 21-0 in the first half but kept plugging away behind Cam Newton, who threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score in his return from a concussion.
Newton’s pinpoint sideline passes – and a bunch of defensive penalties vs. New Orleans – helped the Panthers climb all the way back to tie it at 38-all with 2:58 left.
But the Panthers’ defense – and a critical missed extra-point by Graham Gano – proved too much to overcome.
Ron Rivera laid it on the line. Again.
Call it Riverboat Ron, Version 2.0.
Much like he did in Minnesota in 2013, Rivera coached like a guy with nothing to lose.
The Panthers converted a pair of fourth downs on a critical drive that resulted in a touchdown.
Mike Shula even got into the act, calling an end-around pass from Ted Ginn Jr. to Brenton Bersin, which drew a pass interference penalty that set up a touchdown.