SEATTLE – The way the Panthers’ run game has gradually withered across their first three games has taken Frank Reich aback.
Even though its offense saw its best passing game of the season off the arm of veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, Carolina lost behind a one-dimensional showing in a 37-27 decision against Seattle on Sunday at Lumen Field.
“It really is surprising to me,” Reich said when asked what caused the drop-off from Week 1 to Week 3. “We know for us to be the offense and the team we want to be, we need to have more balance in the offense. And so we have to continue to work on that.”
Dalton’s 361 yards on 34-of-58 passing (a career-high number of attempts for him in his 163rd career start) with two touchdowns and a season-long 47-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark Jr. weren’t enough. Mostly because they only ran it 14 times.
Dalton’s performance marked improvements for a Panthers’ passing attack that had been less-than-explosive through the first two weeks, connecting on five plays of 20 yards or more and moving the ball efficiently, guiding Carolina to a season-high 27 points.
He played in place of an injured Bryce Young, recovering from an ankle injury that ruled him out for this week and questionable for the game ahead at Minnesota.
“You don’t come into Seattle and throw 58 times and win very many games,” Reich said. “That was not the formula that we wanted. The run game was nonexistent, so we’ve got to continue to work on that.
“I did think that Andy handled the pass game pretty well, made a lot of good throws. We made some plays in the pass game. I thought, given 58 attempts, and there are times the protection broke down, but it wasn’t horrible. Have to look at the tape, but in many ways, I thought Andy was pretty solid. I thought Andy did a lot of good things today.”
No, it wasn’t a winning formula, as the Panthers threw so much because they were often playing from behind – in points, and in yardage, as they caused backups with seven false start penalties on offense in front of a loud Seahawks crowd.
“It’s hard to play when you’re one-dimensional,” Dalton said. “And I feel like that’s what we did today. We really couldn’t get the run game going. And I think part of the stuff too is some of those penalties and different things that set you back, and now you feel like you have to throw the ball.
“So there are some things that I’m going to look back on and things that I wish I could have done a little bit better in the pass game. But like I said, when you’re one-dimensional, it makes it tough.”
Running back Miles Sanders rushed for 24 yards on nine attempts at Seattle. He blamed himself for some of the problems and said people in the locker room were encouraged by Reich to look within themselves after Sunday’s loss.
“It’s a lot of self-inflicted wounds that’s happening to us,” Sanders said. “We can’t win games in this league doing that. I’m not into pointing fingers. We all know – we the offense – this is three weeks in a row we haven’t played up to our standards. Just like coach said, there has to be some soul-searching going on. And we’ve got to fix it. It’s as simple as that. It’s not simple, but that’s what has to go on.”
The Panthers weren’t trailing Seattle for the whole game, but Dalton could tell he was throwing the ball more when they were down, especially toward the end. It’s a factor of playing from behind and being unable to run the ball, and they’re going back to the drawing board to figure it out.
“Especially when you get into the end of the game, and you’re going to be throwing the ball every down, trying to claw your way back in it; I think that kind of inflates the number (of attempts) there too,” Dalton said. “But we have to find a way to be balanced. We’ve got to find a way to run the ball better than we did. We didn’t run it good enough today.”
Courtesy – Carolina Panthers