The 5-9 Carolina Panthers came up short against the 6-8 Steelers in Week 15, and nothing seemed to favor the team. The Panthers were on a two-game winning streak under the face of Steve Wilks, but they didn’t defend The Bank.
Defense Wins Games
The Panthers couldn’t stop the run against the Steelers. The defense was clicking on all cylinders before their loss against a mediocre Steelers offense. Although the Panthers held Najee Harris to 3.6 yards per carry, he managed to decimate the Panthers’ defense for a total of 86 yards on 24 attempts, scoring one touchdown.
The Panthers’ defense also managed to miss 15 tackles yesterday. This performance is by far the sloppiest the Panthers played in the campaign. It was a tough day for Keith Taylor Jr. Taylor Jr couldn’t cover deep plays, allowing explosive plays for the Steelers’ offense, especially on third down plays. His third-down woes potentially cost the team the game, but you have to have “short-term memory” in the league and learn how to bounce back.
The Panthers Offense In Trouble
Carolina has been on an offensive onslaught running the ball efficiently and effectively; however, a mid-Steelers defense managed to stop the run, holding the team to 21 yards, averaging 1.3 yards per carry. Per Alex Kozora, the team had zero first downs when running the ball. The Panthers rushed the ball 46 times for 223 yards the previous week. The game plan for the Steelers was to stop the run, and they completely shut it down.
Just last week, Sam Darnold looked comfortable with being behind a stacked offensive line deemed “the strength of the team,” It is head-scratching how Carolina was on a roll, but the O-line was no match for T.J. Watt and Pittsburgh’s defense. The offensive line looked sluggish, allowing four sacks, which they controlled well over the last few weeks.
This team’s loss wasn’t on Sam Darnold. He was under constant pressure due to the O-line overpowered by Pittsburgh’s D. Darnold put up his best performance yard-wise, completing 14 of 23 pass attempts for 225 yards and a touchdown. “He made some good throws,” according to Wilks. Sam will be the starter for Week 16 against the Lions.
Steve Wilks Deserves To Be The Head Coach
Regardless of what people say, Steve Wilks deserves to be the head coach next year. There’s no doubt that he’s lit fire under this young crew, turning their season completely around. Wilks would be a smart move because he’s familiar with the city and the organization. One game shouldn’t be his demise as a coach still learning to control the entire team.
Last week, Panthers captain Shaq Thompson said Steve Wilks changed the culture in the locker room, “right when he stepped in, you could tell the energy changed.” The interim head coach is all about business, and it shows.
The Panthers have no business being in this predicament this season, but with the help of Wilks, the team is entirely different. The team has shown strengths and weaknesses, but what couple does not have imperfections or bad games?
It’s Steve Wilks’s destiny to have his team win games, and if the defense, offensive line, and run game can get things going next week against the 7-7 Lions, things will start trending in the right direction for the team. The Panthers shouldn’t focus on potential playoff talks right now because they have to win out. Talking about the playoffs will distract the group, although that is their end goal for the season.
The path to victory needs to be clarified, but the Panthers are still alive in a terrible division.