ATLANTA (Rick Bonnell/Charlotte Observer) - The Carolina Panthers are certainly providing incentive for major offseason change.
They imploded Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. Some of it was more of the same (run defense and special teams), while some was in areas of relative strength, such as pass defense.
Grading the latest example of a season in free-fall.
F: An unmitigated disaster as far as turnovers. When Kyle Allen wasn’t throwing picks, he was fumbling. Yes, he’s under constant duress behind a shaky offensive line, but this is going to haunt him in sustaining an NFL career. Tight end Ian Thomas, filling in while Greg Olsen is in concussion protocol, showed flashes Sunday after being little-to-no factor previously this season.
C-minus: Remember during training camp, when then-coach Ron Rivera said they aspired to cut back on Christian McCaffrey’s snaps without cutting back on his touches? It finally appeared to be happening Sunday, probably because now that the Panthers have no playoff hopes, they are saving McCraffrey some collisions while exploring what Reggie Bonnafon can be. This trend only figures to grow in the final three games.
F: That was some ugly confusion in the Panthers secondary that led to the Falcons’ first touchdown. Donte Jackson moved, the rest of the secondary didn’t adjust, and Calvin Ridley was so open he was in strut mode en route to the end zone. Later, a second-string wide receiver scores on a 93-yard touchdown.
F: That Atlanta touchdown early in the third quarter by Devonte Freeman — his first rushing touchdown of the season — went 24 yards and looked preposterously easy after Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was blocked out of the hole. Even when the Panthers defense wasn’t particularly good in the past, you didn’t view it as unsound. The run defense this season is unsound in a fundamental way, as fans are reminded weekly.
F: Safe to say the Greg Dortch kickoff-return experience is a failure. He fumbled into the hands of the Falcons’ kicker in the second half.