4 takeaways from the Panthers’ 21-18 loss to Eagles

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In an alternate universe, we’d be preparing to map out four takeaways from an easy Week 5 win for the Carolina Panthers. Heck, even a slightly altered, pretty normal universe would’ve given us that.

But, apparently, we’re not living in either one of those.

So here are four takeaways from a pitiful defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sam Darnold is still not that guy, pal

AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Wideout DJ Moore had himself two tackles on the day. (In case you were wondering, no, he did not play on defense or special teams coverage.)

That’s because Darnold produced a pair of poorly thrown, ill-advised interceptions to Eagles cornerback Darius Slay that were intended for Moore. And those wouldn’t be the only erratic attempts from him.

The fourth-year quarterback, as he did a few times against Dallas in Week 4, unraveled for some concerning plays. He was high on a handful of misses and highly questionable in his decision making.

Darnold (21-of-37, 177 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions) showed on Sunday that he’s still a work in progress for Carolina. While the three consecutive 300-yard passing games and his Cam Newton cosplay with all those rushing scores were nice, that doesn’t mean he’s suddenly an All-Pro.

Microwave culture seems more prevalent in sports, let alone football, than it ever has. But things can’t just happen in 15 seconds or less at the single press of a button and this is one of them.

The offensive line still needs work as well

AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Darnold, however, isn’t the only guy to blame for the offense’s sickly outing. In fact, he isn’t even the only guy to blame for his own outing.

A nice chunk of this disappointing afternoon has to be claimed by the Carolina offensive line, who had actually shuffled its cards prior to kickoff. Taylor Moton shifted over to the blindside in place of an injured Cameron Erving as rookie Brady Christensen made his first start at right tackle.

Welp, it might be time to shuffle and shift and start something new next week.

The group opened the door for three sacks and eight quarterback hits. Darnold had very limited time on many of his dropbacks and was forced to maneuver around the pocket way too often.

Again, Darnold is still a project in the works. The Panthers offense had been functioning, due in large part, to making the game easier for their quarterback. This is not making the game easier.

Robby Anderson still can't be a non-factor

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

If you were wondering how much longer the Panthers offense could keep going at an acceptable rate without Anderson as a major contributor, the answer seems to be five games.

Save for a clutch 25-yard grab to keep the breath in Carolina’s last gasp late in the fourth quarter, Anderson was a non-factor once again. If not for that play, he would’ve finished with one catch for five yards.

Much still seems to be off for the sixth-year wideout. His hands failed him in at least one notable instance in this game and his chemistry and timing with Darnold, something we all thought would a major advantage coming into the year, is practically gone.

At least the defense will be alright

AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Last week’s shellacking courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys may have inspired some fear about the Panthers defense. They came out of Arlington having given up 36 points and 245 rushing yards without a takeaway or even a sack.

But, as evidenced by today’s bounce-back, that was just a case of a really, really good offense playing like a really, really good offense.

Phil Snow’s soldiers put forth an admirable outing without three of its key starters in linebacker Shaq Thompson, cornerback Jaycee Horn and safety Juston Burris. They held a pretty potent Eagles group to 273 total yards with two sacks and two takeaways.

The pair of standout performers in cornerback Donte Jackson and defensive end (and starting linebacker for today’s purposes) Haason Reddick actually accounted for those two sacks and two takeaways. Coincidentally, they are also pair of soon-to-be free agents. Someone get general manager Scott Fitterer on the line.

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