There aren’t many ways to explain the Panthers’ 33-10 loss to Miami but Carolina coach Matt Rhule tried after the game. The second-year head coach acknowledged the Panthers’ inability to generate any offensive consistency, continued penalties and defensive lapses.
“Defensively we hung in there for a while but were not able to do enough,” Rhule said. “We probably needed some more help from the offense.”
Carolina’s loss came in a near must-win situation as the Panthers (5-7) saw their playoff chances drop dramatically in defeat.
The Panthers never held a lead against the Dolphins, falling behind 7-0 early in the first quarter after allowing a blocked punt. Aside from scoring on their second possession, Carolina generated no offensive momentum which eventually led to Rhule benching quarterback Cam Newton.
Rhule said he has no plans of naming a different starter after the team’s Week 13 bye. Instead, backup P.J. Walker relieved Newton because he has a better grasp on the two-minute and no-huddle offense.
“I’m not making any changes. We were not protecting the quarterback worthwhile, at all. It didn’t seem fair to keep Cam in there to keep getting hit. It gave P.J. a chance to play and at the same time Cam just hasn’t had a lot of experience in that part of the game.”
Issues for Carolina superseded quarterback play. For a second consecutive week, the Panthers allowed a 100-plus yard wide receiver to stretch the field against them and convert third downs. Dolphins rookie Jaylen Waddle caught nine passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa consistently stood poised in the pocket against the Panthers’ pass rush. He finished with 230 yards, completing 87% of his throws and tossing a touchdown. On the ground, Miami rushed for two scores and gained 111 yards.
Rhule acknowledged that the Panthers did not lose games like this last year. He insists his players were ready to compete but were outplayed and his staff outcoached.
“When you have games like this, everyone has to look at themselves first,” Rhule said. “I’ve got to do a better job at everything I do. Coaches, players, all of us. Miami physically overwhelmed us at times.”
After halftime, Carolina trailed 21-10. They started the third quarter with the ball and a chance to cut the deficit to one score. But a seven-play drive resulted in just 29 yards. Carolina punted for the fourth time. Then Miami scored a touchdown by piecing together 13 plays in seven minutes.
The game spiraled out of control after that. Newton was benched a series later. Walker threw an interception and was sacked twice during his three drives.
The Panthers’ defense looked disengaged while broadcast cameras captured defensive end Brian Burns yelling at teammates on the sideline.
“I wouldn’t say we weren’t ready. I’d say we got outplayed today,” Rhule said. “That’s harder for me to say, but we got outplayed, we got outcoached.”
The Panthers hold the latest bye week available to teams. They’ve been playing since August without any time off. Rhule wasn’t willing to acknowledge the late bye as an excuse but Carolina is in desperate need of a regroup.
“We’ll take a week to regroup our bodies a little bit and our minds,” Rhule said. “And then get focused on five straight games. I invited them not to talk about anything other than just playing good football when we get back.”