Sitting at 2-13, the Carolina Panthers travelled to Jacksonville with not much to play for other than pride. Following a last-minute loss to the Green Bay Packers last week, the Panthers were at least optimistic after their best offensive performance of the season. Expecting to take another step forward in establishing an offensive identity – and stronger confidence in their rookie quarterback Bryce Young – the team took a huge step back.
It started with kicker Eddy Pineiro unable to play after a hamstring injury. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill handled kickoff duties but and the Panthers were unable to attempt any field goals with no replacement place kicker on the team. That alone left points on the field as they were unable to get into the end zone and turned the ball over on downs three times. Two of those times, the Panthers were within 30 yards of the Jacksonville goal line. Yardage was tough to come by as the offense could only muster 34 total net yards in the first half en route to only 124 yards for the game.
Jacksonville was playing without starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence but C.J. Beathard held steady for the Jaguars throwing for 178 yards on 17-of-24 passing. He did not throw for any touchdowns, but he also did not turn the ball over and finished with a 92.0 passer rating. Jacksonville racked up 155 yards on the ground with Travis Etienne accounting for 102 of those on 16 carries. He also scored the only two touchdowns of the game. Carolina’s defense was placed in a precarious position with the offense sputtering as badly as it did. They were able to hold the Jaguars to three field goals before Etienne rambled for a 62 yard score in the third quarter. Etienne’s second score of the day came late in the fourth quarter on a drive that started at the Carolina 15-yard line after the Panthers turned the ball over on downs.
Carolina was 1-of-13 on third down conversions and 3-of-6 on fourth down conversions. Their third first down of the day didn’t come until the third quarter; their first two came on the opening drive. The closest they got to the end zone was a 30-yard strike to DJ Chark who was brought down inside the 2-yard line, but that play was challenged by Jacksonville and reversed. The running game, which had been progressing in recent weeks, was stifled and the Panthers were held to just 57 net yards on 15 attempts. Pass protection appeared to take a step forward last week but stumbled this week as Young was sacked six times. Four of those sacks were drive-ending. The Carolina defense was able to get to Beathard three times, but gave up 317 total net yards as Jacksonville held possession for nearly seven minutes more than the Panthers. Carolina had six straight three-and-out possessions en route to being shut out for the first time since 2002.
Young finished with 112 yards on 19-of-32 passing and was intercepted by Antonio Johnson to end Carolina’s final drive. Running back Chuba Hubbard was held to 45 yards on eleven carries while Adam Thielen led Carolina’s receivers with six catches for 38 yards. The end of the season can’t come soon enough for this Panthers squad as they head home to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season finale.