Biggest takeaways from Panthers’ Week 9 loss to Bengals

What can you really take away from a defeat like the one the Carolina Panthers just suffered at the hands (or paws) of the Cincinnati Bengals?

Well, this . . .

Is it time to go back to Baker Mayfield?

Albert Cesare-The Enquirer

Was Sunday’s relief appearance under center a warmup for what’s to come? It very well could have been.

PJ Walker came up flat in his fourth (and possibly final) start of the 2022 season. The third-year quarterback nearly completed as many passes to defenders as he did to his teammates—finishing with just nine yards on only three hits and a pair of interceptions.

Down 35-0 at the half, the largest such deficit in franchise history, interim head coach Steve Wilks and the Panthers turned to Baker Mayfield—who gave a positive account of himself. Albeit against some prevent defense in garbage time, Mayfield connected on 14 of his 20 throws for 155 yards and two touchdowns in his return to action.

While it’ll be tough to already pivot back away from Walker, who is highly respected by his coaches and teammates, the former No. 1 overall pick has always been the better player. Plus, the short turnaround into Thursday’s game with the Atlanta Falcons may not be much of a factor considering how much work Mayfield has already gotten with this offense.

Run defense remains unreliable

Albert Cesare-The Enquirer

At times, this defense has looked quite reputable against opposing rushers. And that’s especially been aided by the breakout campaign from defensive tackle Derrick Brown, who’s anchored the middle of the trench all season long.

But, as proven on Sunday, they can also look completely lost.

Bengals running back Joe Mixon absolutely dominated the ground, recording a season-high 153 yards and a career-high four touchdowns on 22 carries. (Heck, he even added another 58 yards and another score as a receiver just for good measure.)

Once again, Carolina came up weak in the basics—exhibiting poor tackling, poor angles and just flat out poor effort in rolling out the red carpet for a 241-yard rushing performance. And cornerback Jaycee Horn was particularly disappointing, failing to hold the edge on three of Mixon’s scores.

Terrace Marshall Jr. is coming into his own

Albert Cesare-The Enquirer

We’ll leave you with a bit of good in Marshall Jr.—who is finally carving out a role for himself.

The 2021 second-rounder, who had an eye-opening preseason during his rookie campaign, couldn’t latch on last year—registering all of 138 yards on 17 receptions over 13 games. But now, specifically in these last three weeks where he’s seeing his most pro action yet, the 22-year-old found himself some footing.

Since Week 7, Marshall Jr. has gone for 171 yards on nine grabs as Carolina’s No. 2 target in the passing game. 53 of those yards, as well as his first career touchdown, came on Sunday.

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Story originally appeared on Panthers Wire