The Carolina Panthers need to fix their leaky defense to have any chance of winning the NFC South Division. A matchup against the reeling Detroit Lions could be a good place to start.
The Panthers got picked apart in a Thursday night tilt at Pittsburgh, allowed 52 points, as Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes and had only three incompletions.
It wasn’t just breakdowns in the secondary. Carolina’s pass rush was ineffective, which allowed Roethlisberger to settle into a comfort zone.
“We’re playing a lot of young guys, and a lot of different guys too, now,” coach Ron Rivera told the Charlotte Observer. “That’s part of it, getting a feel for one another as well. And sometimes it’s clicked and it has clicked very well.
“Probably the inconsistency of the pass rush is the young guys that we are using. It’s difficult when you don’t have that continuity from the start, so these guys are developing that rapport,” he added. “Defensively, we have to continue to roll these guys until we find something that I think really clicks on the pass-rush side.”
The loss to the Steelers snapped the Panthers’ three-game winning streak. They’ll now head to Detroit’s Ford Field on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Eric Washington told the Observer that his unit is lacking in all phases.
“We need consistency in all areas,” he said. “When you have the outcome that we had, you have to look at everything. You have to look at our run defense. You have to look at our inability to get off the field on third down (and) our pass rush.”
Carolina (6-3) trails New Orleans by two games in the division. It’s still in good shape for a wild card berth.
Running back Christian McCaffrey was a bright spot in Pittsburgh, scoring all three of the team’s touchdowns while gaining a combined 138 yards.
The Lions (3-6) are last in the NFC North after losing their three consecutive games in lopsided fashion.
Their secondary also took a beating in the last game, as Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky passed for 355 yards and three scores in a 34-22 Bears victory.
“Unfortunately, it’s been a multitude of things that have gone wrong through the last several games,” first-year coach Matt Patricia said.
Injuries are also piling up, as wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. (knee), defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (ankle) and tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder) sat out Wednesday’s practice. Guard T.J. Lang was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury.
Patricia’s defense will need to have more success against Cam Newton than it did against Trubisky. Newton has thrown at least two touchdown passes in each game since getting shutout in the opener.
“It’s difficult from a defensive perspective to handle him,” Patricia said. “From snap one until the end of the game, it’s always a challenge.”
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has taken a beating over the last two weeks against division rivals Minnesota and Chicago, getting sacked 16 times. If Jones can’t play on Sunday, finding an open receiver could prove difficult.
Detroit dealt its top receiver, Golden Tate, to Philadelphia just before the trade deadline.
—Field Level Media