The Panthers are not as bad as the team that showed up in the second half against the Giants Sunday, but they were awful at the things they have done well in the past — running the ball, protecting the quarterback — in the loss.
Carolina took a 16-14 lead into halftime at New Meadowlands Stadium and was outscored 17-2 the rest of the way. RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart rushed for just six yards on five carries in the second half and QB Matt Moore was sacked four times and hit nine times in the same span before leaving the game on Carolina's final possession with a concussion.
Perhaps the only good news for the Panthers is they face the Buccaneers, who had trouble beating the Browns at home on Sunday, in Week Two. Rookie Jimmy Clausen will get his first NFL start if Moore is unable to go.
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Running the ball just five times in one half isn't the kind of offensive balance that's going to win games for many NFL teams, and the Panthers are going to lose a lot if their ground game isn't successful.
Carolina rushed for 124 yards or more in seven of their eight wins last season and it was held to less than 100 yards on the ground four times — only once in the last 12 weeks. Williams and Stewart are going to get their yards eventually — probably starting in Week Two. The Panthers have rushed for at least 157 rushing yards in each of their last three games against Tampa Bay. If the offensive line doesn't get movement against the Bucs' front four, then it's time to panic in Charlotte.
The bigger concern for head coach John Fox is at quarterback. Moore was intercepted three times after never having a multi-pick game before in his career, and there is a good chance Clausen will get thrown into the starting lineup earlier than expected.
The Bucs don't have the talent to replicate the Giants' pass rush, but the Carolina offensive line has to fix the communication breakdowns that seemed to plague it against the Giants' swarming attack to keep its quarterbacks safe.