Panthers still clinging to playoff hopes as they approach daunting series of matchups
At the end of regulation at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, the Carolina Panthers were handed a painful 34-31 loss courtesy of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. The win for the Saints evened the all-time series between the two teams at 25-25.
Despite being hit with their third straight loss, the team had some positive takeaways. Running back Christian McCaffrey, who entered the game on Sunday leading the NFL with 157.6 scrimmage yards per game and 16 total touchdowns, finished with 133 yards from scrimmage (64 rush yards, 69 receiving yards). McCaffrey's 1 rush TD and 1 receiving TD was the eighth career game with a rushing and receiving TD.
The Panthers' leading receiver DJ Moore finished with 126 receiving yards on six receptions and two touchdowns and joined Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad as the only Panthers with over 900 yards in the first 11 games of a season.
The biggest takeaway of the week, however, was that of Kyle Allen's performance. Allen completed 23-of-36 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. The stats were encouraging for Rivera, who has struggled to find a bright light for his team as of late. "I thought Kyle (Allen) responded tremendously well," Ron Rivera said.
A lot of things went the Panthers' way on Sunday including a pass interference call being overturned. But the things that didn't go well were enough to make the call reversal a mute point. Kicker Joey Slye missed the field goal attempt that was set up by the drive that included the overturned call. Slye missed that opportunity along with two PAT's. But Rivera was pleased with the opportunity the call-challenge gave him. "I've been looking for this type of situation to challenge and see what the interpretation would be," Rivera said. "I think that's what it's for."
While most of the Panthers' accomplishments looked great on the stat sheet, they have not translated to wins for the team over the last three outings. And with owner David Tepper's recent statements about not being willing to live with mediocrity for an extensive period of time, this could be a critical juncture for Rivera and his staff. Next week's game versus the Washington Redskins (2-9) puts the team in an almost must-win situation to extend their longevity as well their playoffs hopes.
Sun, Dec 1 vs Washington
Sun, Dec 8 @ Atlanta
Sun, Dec 15 vs Seattle
Sun, Dec 22 @ Indianapolis
Sun, Dec 29 vs New Orleans