The Panthers defensive line had a quiet day and was not able to pressure Teddy Bridgewater as much as they would have liked. Charles Johnson, who was a question mark entering this game, was the only defensive linemen to register a sack and no other defensive linemen even registered a quarterback hit.
The drop off in the pass rush has been astounding from what they were able to do last year to this year. In 2013, the Panthers led the league with 60 sacks but right now rank 20th with only 23 sacks. Now there is one key player missing this year (Greg Hardy) but the production has dropped off across the whole line. Last year, Charles Johnson registered 11 sacks but this year only has six through 11 games.
There are plenty of places to point the finger for the Carolina Panthers struggles in 2014; however linebacker is one group that really can’t take any of the blame. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis continue to put together solid game after solid game.
Kuechly led the Panthers in tackles with nine but also had two sacks on Bridgewater. Davis finished second in tackles on the Panthers with seven and had one tackle for a loss. Kuechly currently leads the NFL in Pro Bowl voting for inside linebacker but his running mate, Davis, isn’t even in the Top 10 for outside linebacker. With how high of level the former University of Georgia linebacker is playing at right now, it is disappointing to not see him get the recognition he deserves.
The secondary had a solid game for the first time in a long time. They held Bridgewater to only 138 passing yards which is well below the team’s average of 255 yards per game. The game didn’t start off well for this group and after only one quarter the coaching staff decided to make some changes. Thomas Decoud was replaced by Tre Boston at free safety and Bene Benwikere was replaced by Colin Jones at nickelback.
Boston’s playing time was short-lived though as he injured his ankle during the game and had to head to the locker room. The secondary did look better with Boston in at free safety and with playoffs most likely out of reach now, the coaching staff should give Boston as much playing time as possible to see what he can bring to the table.
For the second game in the row, the special teams lost the game for the Carolina Panthers. Against the Falcons, Graham Gano missed two field goals late that would have secured the win. This week it was the punt team that was a big reason for the loss with two punts blocked which were returned for touchdowns.
The blame falls more on the blocking than it does on Brad Nortman because on both occasions, a Vikings defender basically broke through the line with no resistance and was able to get the block. These two blocks changed the entire game as the Vikings were able to go up 21-3 early in the second quarter and put pressure on the Panthers offense to play catch up.