Carolina Panthers

Instant analysis: How WR issues trickled down, stopped Panthers; Ryan Kalil’s future

Instant analysis from the Carolina Panthers’ 17-3 loss against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

Panthers’ receivers just don’t scare anyone deep.

There were a slew of problems for the offense Sunday, but let’s start with this one because a lot of the other issues stem from it. This receiving group as currently constituted (sans Ted Ginn Jr.) just can’t get much separation deep unless it’s a broken coverage.

That leads to a stacked box, which leads to a stagnant running game, which leads to third-and-long, which leads to sacks. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Cam Newton completed one pass longer than 20 yards vs. the Bears – a 37-yarder to Kelvin Benjamin, who was well covered but made a great, twisting catch at the end of the first half. Of course, it went for naught when the Panthers couldn’t get set to spike the ball, and the clock ran out.

Turnovers (and lack thereof) are killing Panthers.

The Panthers allowed a pair of defensive touchdowns in the first half – both by rookie safety Eddie Jackson – to fall into an early hole they would never threaten to climb out of. Curtis Samuel fumbled a pitch on Jackson’s first score, and Newton forced a pass to Benjamin on the second.

Meanwhile, the Panthers’ defense was salty all game, but could not come up with any takeaways. Carolina extended its franchise-long drought without an interception to six games.

No takeaways meant a lot of long fields for Newton and Co. And as mentioned above, that spelled doom.

Should we be worried about Ryan Kalil’s future?

Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil’s return to the lineup lasted all of one quarter before he aggravated the neck injury that had kept him out of the previous five games.

Kalil, 32, was one of two offensive linemen who didn’t finish the game. Right guard Trai Turner left in the second half with a knee injury.

While there’s been a lot of attention paid to the health of Luke Kuechly (and justifiably so), Kalil’s long-term future also needs to be considered. He plays a position that is going to put stress on his neck every play, and his short outing Sunday certainly should be a cause for concern.

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