The Carolina Panthers’ 3-0 start to the season feels like a distant memory as the same team limped out of MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ after its fourth straight loss, a 25-3 defeat at the hands of the New York Giants.
The Panthers earned a field goal on their first possession, and then had only three drives the rest of the game that included first downs. Carolina punted on seven occassions, Sam Darnold surrendered a safety on an intentional grounding in the end zone, and also threw his seventh interception in the last four contests.
New York struggled to find its footing early like the Panthers, but ultimately wore down the Carolina D, scoring 20 second-half points.
“They were the tougher team today,” Panthers Head Coach Matt Rhule said. “They were ready to play at a high level and we were not good enough.”
Rhule benched Darnold at the beginning of the fourth quarter, as the Carolina signal-caller looked as uncomfortable in at MetLife Stadium as a Panther as he did as a New York Jet. Darnold threw for just 111 yards, with only two passes of more than ten yards.
“We’re unable to find a rhythm out there,” Darnold said. “We’ve gotta find a way to get a rhythm back. We had couple of good drives, we just didn’t convert that last third down. I just gotta do a better job of protecting the football [on the interception]. That’s points we can’t give up.”
Sunday also proved to be a showcase for two former Panthers, as James Bradberry collected the interception of the Darnold which came in the red zone. Former Carolina kicker Graham Gano also hit three field goals in the game, including one from 53 yards.
Despite the poor performance, Rhule said he plans to start Darnold next week.
“The last thing you want to do is embarrass somebody, because you know this is going to be the story this week,” Rhule said. “Sam will define who he is.”
On the other side of the quarterback ledger, Giants QB Daniel Jones showcased his arm (203 yards passing, TD) and his athletic ability (8 rushes, 28 yards; 1 catch, 16 yards), facing the team he grew up rooting for in Charlotte.
Carolina snapped a three-game win streak head-to-head against New York, with the Giants earning their first win over the Panthers since 2012.
The Panthers (3-4) hope to get right against their divisional rival, the Atlanta Falcons (3-3), who are coming off back-to-back wins.