Monthly Archives: November 2020

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CHARLOTTE – A week ago, the Panthers looked so resilient, so poised, and so able to overcome adversity.

This week, with their starting quarterback back in the lineup, they proved they’re still a young team that needs to get better at many things, but one of the first items on that list is simply learning how to win. Figuring out where to start the list after that will take longer.

The Panthers wasted a week’s worth of good feelings by dropping a 28-27 decision at Minnesota in which everyone had a hand in the failure of the waning moments.

The offense was unable to finish the game from the 3-yard line, after a Vikings’ turnover gave them a chance to, settling for a field goal when a touchdown would have sealed it. That was consistent with a day of settling, as the Panthers managed just three points in three trips to the red zone.

The defense failed to stop the Vikings in the final two minutes, even without top receiver Adam Thielen. Instead, Kirk Cousins drove them 75 yards in 65 seconds without timeouts, hitting Chad Beebe for the game-deciding touchdown.

Even with all that collective collapse, the Panthers still had a chance at a manageable field goal to win the game, with Cheap Joey Slye Jersey pushing a 54-yard attempt wide left. They also had a field goal blocked earlier in the game, and the three points in three trips to the red zone underscored the kind of game it was.

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Panthers coach Matt Rhule added himself to the top of the list, and there were game-management issues late that kept them from celebrating a very winnable game. He opened his postgame comments by noting that they held Vikings star running back Dalvin Cook to 61 yards rushing and had two defensive scores. Those things should point to a comfortable win, but there was nothing comfortable about this.

“I didn’t think that obviously was good enough by us,” Rhule said. “And I’ve always tried to be really honest and real and direct about where I think the fault is. I think as a coaching staff, we didn’t get the job done today. I think anytime you have two defensive touchdowns and you don’t win, it’s on you.

“Anytime that you hold them to [61] yards, it’s on us as a staff. To not be able to put the game away with the ball at the 10-yard line with two minutes left is unacceptable by us as a staff. To not to be able to stop them and then not be able to make the field goal at the end with a chance to win the game – we had three opportunities to close it out and we did not do it.”

Rhule maintained his belief that the Panthers were a good team, even though results do not immediately suggest that.

“We have not closed these types of games out,” he said. “And tonight, I feel like I try to look and see where the fault lies, and today I would put it squarely on us as a staff, which starts with me. ”

The fact this story has gone on this long without mentioning Cheap Jeremy Chinn Jersey illustrates how ridiculous the final moments were.

The rookie linebacker scored a pair of touchdowns on back-to-back Vikings’ snaps in the third quarter, returning a pair of fumbles. He became the first player in the Super Bowl era with multiple fumble recovery touchdowns in the same game.

Jeremy Chinn celebrates
Harrison Barden
The postgame mood kept him from celebrating an incredible achievement, but that was muted — and moot — because he was also on the field for the late collapse.

“We just have to finish,” Chinn said. “I feel like I say that all the time, but we can’t let our opponent breathe. We’re playing good as a defense and we’ve just got to keep it going and put the nail in the coffin.”

They did not.

And because they didn’t, a team that could have been feeling good about a two-game winning streak is now faced with the reality that they’re 4-8 and have lost six of their last seven games.

That’s a very different atmosphere going into the bye for a team that could use any confidence that could be gained as they rebuild.

Defensive tackle Cheap Zach Kerr Jersey, who forced the fumble which Chinn returned for the first score, said he didn’t think it would impact the confidence of the team, because the roster is filled with so many young players, or guys who have found their way here after being cut by others.

“That’s our culture. That’s who we are,” Kerr said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but you go down our roster and you look at the guys that are on our team and all of us are fighters. We’re all underdogs, we’ve all been overlooked, so staying positive and keep fighting, that’s easy for us. That’s not hard for us, that’s really easy.

“I don’t think there’s really any reason or specific anything for us to go the opposite direction. We’ve been the same way through wins and losses, so I think it’s easy for us to stay where we are.”

At the moment, where they are is not in a good place, not a place they could have been, with a little more polish in every phase of the game. And being as close as they were makes it that much more painful.

“I think for myself, I think that’s 100 percent in range, just based off what I’ve put on tape and what I’ve been able to do,” Slye said of his third miss on a game-winning field goal this season, a much different kick than longshots against the Saints and Chiefs earlier this year.

“A 54-yarder is something that should be in my wheelhouse and should be somewhat of a kick that’s a higher percentage for not only myself but for the team to view,” Slye continued. “For me not to do what they sent me out there to do and what I feel comfortable hitting is frustrating for me.

“I want to put myself in a lot of those situations to put the team on my back and kind of wear that hat on my head and help us in different ways, and today I let the team down, so I’m pretty frustrated about that.”

And at the moment, having plenty of company in that regard is no consolation.

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t’s crunch time. Get ready for game day, and don’t forget the chips when the Panthers face the Vikings on Sunday. Here are five things to watch for in the matchup.

GETTING SOME GUYS BACK

As much as anything, the Panthers are trying to create some sense of stability this season without swinging wildly in any particular direction from week to week.

The hope is that will eventually translate into season to season, but for now, they’ll work with what they have.

Quarterback Cheap Teddy Bridgewater Jersey will be back on the field this week after he was held out last Sunday against the Lions because of a slight right knee injury. Honestly, it would probably take a restraining order to keep Bridgewater off the field in Minnesota, where his career started and nearly ended because of his 2016 left knee injury.

There were also promising signs with left tackle Cheap Russell Okung Jersey and right guard Cheap John Miller Jersey back on the practice field this week. While no one said it out loud, those two being out last week likely played into the decision to give Bridgewater a week to heal, and backup Cheap P.J. Walker Jersey did a good enough job to lead them to the win.

Running back Cheap Christian McCaffrey Jersey won’t be back until after the bye week (and he did more in practice this week as he comes back from his shoulder injury), but the Panthers are getting closer to what they’re used to on offense, which can only help.

Kirk Cousins
Kamil Krzaczynski/AP
COUSINS ON A ROLL

The Vikings have committed themselves to quarterback Kirk Cousins, and their fate generally swings with his performance.

Early on this season, when he was turning it over all the time, that put them in a hole they may not be able to dig out from.

But for his part, he’s played incredibly well since the bye.

In the four games since their break, Cousins has thrown nine touchdowns and just one interception, has completed 71.0 percent of his passes, averaging 9.9 yards per attempt, and has a passer rating of 128.2.

That’s allowed him to put an ugly start behind him, as he held the league lead in interceptions earlier this year (only recently yielding it to Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz), but has bounced nicely.

TAKE YOUR TIME TEDDY

This isn’t the typical Vikings’ defense we’re used to seeing, primarily because they lack anything resembling a pass rush.

After losing defensive end Danielle Hunter to a season-ending injury, then flipping trade acquisition Yannick Ngakoue to the Ravens in October, the Vikings are making do with a bunch of third-day picks (if that) up front.

Ngakoue had five sacks in his six games there, and there’s a good chance he could be the team leader in that category at season’s end, as no one else on the roster has more than three at the moment.

Adam Thielen
Bruce Kluckhohn/AP
SHORTHANDED ON BOTH SIDES

The Panthers will be without cornerback Cheap Donte Jackson Jersey again this week as they try to let his problematic toe injury heal.

The Vikings could have an equivalent absence on the other side of the ball.

Wide receiver Adam Thielen has been on the reserve/COVID-19 list since Monday, and reports suggested he might not be cleared in time to play this week.

He had a huge game last time out, with eight catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns last week against Dallas. His 11 touchdown receptions are a league-high, as he’s become Cousins’ go-to target after they traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills this offseason.

Thielen has been especially dangerous in the red zone, with 10 of his touchdowns coming inside the 20-yard line.

The Vikings can still be effective on offense, especially with the way running back Dalvin Cook has performed this year, but being without Thielen would be a major blow.

GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN

The Panthers are on a bit of a roll against teams that employ the franchise’s original coach, Dom Capers.

The 70-year-old Capers, who coached the Panthers from 1995-98 and led the expansion team to the NFC Championship Game in its second year, now works as a senior defensive consultant with the Vikings.

The Vikings are his seventh team since he left Charlotte, including long stints as the Texans’ head coach (2002-05) and the Packers’ defensive coordinator (2009-2017).

The last three times they’ve seen Capers, the Panthers have won, including last year’s game against Jacksonville and the 2015 and 2017 games against the Packers. He had won the previous four meetings with the Panthers (1999 with the Jaguars, 2003 with the Texans, and 2011 and 2014 with the Packers).

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CHARLOTTE – Quarterback Cheap P.J. Walker Jersey 2020 has been a story of “what’s next?” When one door’s closed, another’s opened, and he’s always seemed to rise to the occasion.

For those not familiar with the New Jersey native’s story, Walker was one of the standout players in the XFL. After COVID-19 forced the league to end its season abruptly, the MVP favorite had no choice but to ask, “What’s next?”

During the NFL offseason, Walker found a home in Charlotte where he was signed to compete for the backup job behind Cheap Teddy Bridgewater Jersey.

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Brandon Todd/Carolina Panthers
As the Panthers’ team photographer, I’ve had the unique opportunity to watch Walker every day at practice. I’ve watched him get better day after day as he takes reps against the starting defense.

When Bridgewater was listed as a game-time decision with a knee injury suffered against Tampa Bay, another door opened for Walker. This time he got the call to start against the Lions.

Pregame seemed to be business as usual. Walker warmed up with fellow backup Cheap Will Grier Jersey and quarterbacks coach Jake Peetz.

After receiving the news that Walker had been named Sunday’s starter, I shifted my focus to him, knowing that every photo would help tell the story of his first NFL start.

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Brandon Todd/Carolina Panthers
One of my favorite shots from Walker’s day came early during walkouts for pregame.

I set up my Godox strobe at a low angle, and I was able to capture this cool shot of Walker and his linemen walking through the tunnel to the field.

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Brandon Todd/Carolina Panthers
When the action started, Walker, who is known to make plays outside of the pocket, had a couple of cool throws on the run.

When you have a quarterback who likes to make plays on the run, you not only have to focus on him in stride, but you also have to anticipate where he may throw the ball when he’s in motion.

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Brandon Todd/Carolina Panthers
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Another bonus of having a scrambling quarterback is knowing you’re going to get an electrifying play if he breaks out of the pocket.

My favorite photo from this game came when Walker broke the pocket and started to make his way downfield, where he laid a solid stiff arm on a Lions’ defender.

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Brandon Todd/Carolina Panthers
With the help of some big plays by the defense and special teams, Walker led the Panthers to a 20-0 win.

During a normal year, I’d follow Walker from the field to the locker room, where I would photograph him celebrating with his teammates. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, my journey with him stopped at the locker room door where he entered to celebrate his first NFL victory.