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Carolina offense staggers in 20-10 loss to New England

The Carolina Panthers fell to the New England Patriots 20-10 Friday night in Gillette Stadium as the offense staggered throughout the game.

The black and blue could not reach the endzone on the offensive end, finishing with just a field goal, as the team struggled to sustain a drive deep into the redzone.

Friday night saw Carolina alternate quarterbacks as PJ Walker started and played the first and third quarters. Rookie QB Matt Corral played in the second and fourth. Of the two, Corral finished the night on a higher note with 9-for-15 passing and 58 yards. With 107 yards on 8-for-15, Walker also threw two interceptions on the night. Both QBs were sacked five times in the game.

The glaring problem was the number of sacks. Granted majority of the projected starting offensive line did not play this game. The only likely starters that took the field for Carolina were Brady Christensen and Ikem Ekwonu. On the first possession for the Panthers, Ekwonu demonstrated his strength by manhandling a New England defensive back to help the running game. But on the second possession two sacks occurred where the pressure came from Ekwonu’s side.

This is a young player, so these moments help develop his technique before the regular season.

In the post-game interview, head coach Matt Rhule said that this was a needed moment for the rookie, and it is all about preparation.

“A young left tackle, we need to make sure he's prepared for the season, so he needed these reps,” Rhule said. “So, to go against (Matthew) Judon, to go against Deatrich Wise, those are excellent pass-rushers.”

Moving forward the sacks must be a focal point for all offensive linemen, regardless of where on the depth chart the player may be. This was the biggest rebuild for Carolina, so the number of sacks allowed need to be the biggest priority. For Ekwonu, it is just fine-tuning things, his play is not the most concerning on the line because as Rhule said, he is still young.

Another issue is Matt Corral. He played much better than his previous game, but that is not the issue or concern. As reported by Augusta Stone for the team website, Corral injured his left foot and left the locker room with a walking boot.

While he is waiting in the wings behind Sam Darnold, and or Baker Mayfield, as the potential QB of the future for Carolina, his situation is worth following.

The Panthers held the New England Patriots to a 2-for-12 third-down conversion rate. This was a huge potential concern because getting the defense off the field, and staggering your opponent is crucial to football. Carolina ranked eighth best in third-down conversion rate on defense, almost 38 percent. But the black and blue ranked 20th in points allowed per game with almost 24. So, there is no obvious correlation, statistically, but stopping the opponent is critical to win games.

Carolina allowed Washington in the first preseason game to convert 8-for-14 on third downs, so the defense adjusted well, arguably against a better opponent too.

In a 20-10 loss against one of the better teams in New England, there are a few things to learn before the next game for Carolina.

The Panthers host the Buffalo Bills Friday night at Bank America Stadium, kickoff is scheduled for 7:00.