Try as it may, Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich had to admit Sunday’s matchup against the Indianapolis Colts meant something. Reich was fired by the Colts in Week Nine of last season and would be facing his former squad for the first time. Sure there was also the storyline of the first (Bryce Young) and third (Anthony Richardson) quarterbacks taken it this past NFL Draft, but Richardson is out for the season following a shoulder injury. Although they only sat at 1-6 coming into the game, there was a little optimism for not only Young and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, but for the team as a whole.
After a couple of punts, the Panthers got a shot at good field position when linebacker Chandler Wooten recovered a muffed punt at the Carolina 48. However, they could not capitalize on the opportunity; only gaining 1 net yard on 5 plays. The Colts would score on their next three possessions, aided and abetted by several Panthers penalties. Eku Leota jumped offsides as Indianapolis was set to punt and the Colts got the first down by penalty. Later in the same drive, cornerback Troy Hill was flagged for a personal foul as quarterback Gardner Minshew slid. They settled for the field goal on that drive. On their next drive, a controversial personal foul called on safety Xavier Woods put the ball at the Carolina 12 yard line. Two plays later, running back Jonathan Taylor scored from 10 yards out to push the Colts lead to 10-0. A 35-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro brought the Panthers within 7 before Matt Gay booted a 57-yarder to push the lead back to 10 with less than a minute left in the first half. At first down from their own 49, Young was intercepted by cornerback Kenny Moore who scampered into the end zone for the pick six right before the half.
The game was a disappointing regression as the team hoped to go on a run following the bye week. Young finished with three interceptions and only one touchdown pass. Adam Thielen, who had been a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster receiver corp finished with five catches for only 29 yards.
Trailing 20-3, the Panthers used a steady rushing attack by Chuba Hubbard, Raheem Blackshear, and Miles Sanders to drive down the field and set up the 5-yard touchdown reception by DJ Chark. Carolina was within 10 with 4:34 to play in the third quarter. Defense forced the punt and Carolina was on the move until Young was intercepted once again by Moore. This time, Moore went 66 yards for the score making it 27-10 with 13:40 left on the clock. Pineiro’s 49-yard field goal made it a two possession game with 8:08 to play. There was still an outside chance when the Panthers were flagged for two penalties – holding on Hill and roughing the passer on Derrick Brown on a pivotal 3rd down. Instead of a stop and a chance to cut into the lead, the Colts drive continued from the 44 with 6:37 to play. Still, the Panthers got the ball back with a little under 5 minutes to play, yet pretty much closed the door on any comeback as Young was intercepted for a third time – this time it was linebacker Segun Olubi with the pick at the Colts 37 yard line just 27 seconds later. That was all she wrote as the Colts sent the Panthers to 1-7 with a final score of 27-13. It will be a short week for Carolina as they travel to Chicago for a Thursday Night Football matchup. The Colts improve to 4-5 and travel to Frankfurt, Germany to take on the New England Patriots.