Carolina Panthers

Instant analysis: Concerned about Luke Kuechly, and Mike Shula’s play-calling

Instant analysis from the Carolina Panthers’ 28-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

1. Concern for Kuechly.

The game was close and went down to the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. No matter.

All the game action felt secondary compared to the status of Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, who sustained his third concussion in as many seasons in a first-half collision with an Eagles’ lineman.

Questions about Kuechly’s long-term health should outweigh his timetable for a return this season.

2. What was Mike Shula thinking?

Trailing by five, the Panthers had driven into Eagles territory and had a first down at the Philadelphia 41 with 3:29 remaining.

That was plenty of time to complete a couple of short passes to Christian McCaffrey, maybe run a draw play to Cam Newton, or a misdirection play for that matter.

Instead, offensive coordinator Mike Shula sent in three plays that had Newton heaving the ball deep. The first two were incomplete and the third one was picked off by Jalen Mills.

The interception – Newton’s third of the night – appeared to be the result of a miscommunication between Newton and his receivers. The ball sailed in between Kelvin Benjamin and Russell Shepard, who kept his route outside.

The Panthers got the ball back again, but they turned it over on downs at the Eagles’ 48.

3. Panthers’ defense not disruptive enough.

Carolina sacked Eagles QB Carson Wentz three times in the first half, including Julius Peppers’ 150th career sack. Peppers’ strip-sack on Wentz created a turnover when Kawann Short scooped up the loose ball.

But that was the first and last Panthers’ takeaway of the night. They also failed to sack Wentz in the second half, allowing him to develop a rhythm and starting picking apart the Kuechly-less defense.

The lack of takeaways has been a problem for the Panthers all season, and Thursday the turnover battle was the difference in the game.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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