The Carolina Panthers told the same story they have so many times before on Sunday, hanging tough and then collapsing late to the Dallas Cowboys, 33-10, in front of a Cowboy-blue Bank of America Stadium.
Here’s a recap of what head coach Frank Reich said after the loss that pushed the Panthers to 1-9.
Opening statement: ‘A difficult loss’
“[Dicaprio] Bootle had the knee so we’ll have to get him evaluated and go from there.
“A difficult loss. Give the Cowboys credit. They played well. They’re a good football team. I did think for three quarters we hung in there. In the third quarter we went down, had that long drive and scored and got it to a one-score game and felt like in spite of the fact that we had a few mistakes along the road, the game was well within grasp there when we got it to 17-10. But we weren’t able to hang in from there, and then it got out of control obviously with the turnovers.”
On the priorities of a stagnant Panthers offense
“You’re exactly right, this game is always about points. We know that. That’s the test. For us as an offense, that’s a very good defense. We knew coming in statistically in every way, shape and form, that’s a very talented defense. I thought we ran the ball and dominated up front. That showed a lot of good stuff against a very good team. We dominated at the line of scrimmage in the first half. There’s just no two ways about it. That’s what we did. That’s on tape. But what we didn’t do was we didn’t score points. We’ve got to be able to convert. When we’re running it six yards a carry and our O-line is blocking up front on the run as well as we’re blocking, those things have to get converted into touchdowns.”
Carolina’s struggles when it mattered most
“We had problems protecting. We had problems protecting in the first half, really the whole game, so they’re very talented pass rushers. We knew that going in. Obviously, Micah Parsons is a special player, but he’s not the only good pass rusher they have. We knew they were loaded up front. We knew it was going to be a challenge. We thought the formula was run the football. Run the football, sustain drives, shorten the game like that, be able to throw some play action, take a few shots here and there, but we just weren’t able to — when we stalled running it on a few key third downs and then in the red zone, we weren’t able to make the plays in the pass game that we needed.”
What happened on pick-6?
“I’ve got to go back and look at the tape, but the guy makes a great play. It seemed like the ball — we got flushed in the pocket, so it wasn’t the release pattern with the two receivers — there was a little bit of a miscue, not by them, but a defender kind of got in the way and blew it up a little bit. (Jonathan) Mingo is coming over and coming up field a little bit, the guy just under cuts him and makes a good play.
Struggles protecting Bryce Young
“I think that from a pass protection standpoint, we just have to keep working. This particular defense is as good of a pass rush team as there is in the NFL. That’s just what they are. So I give them credit. I thought we would protect better. I thought we had a good protection plan to try to double (Micah) Parsons when we could. There’s going to be some five-man protection stuff where the throw gets out quick. We had a variety of things in the protection scheme, but we just weren’t able to execute.”
On Panthers accruing 90 yards in penalties
“It was brutal. I mean, it was brutal. We had a chance at the end of the first half. Our defense has been playing great, so can’t say too much about that. But we get the score, then we kick. We get a penalty on the kickoff. We kick it out of bounds, so they’re starting at the 40, and then we get two third and longs and we extend drives, that turns that three points into seven so giving them four points there but not only giving them four points, we’re losing an opportunity to have a two-minute drive. So who knows what we do on the two-minute drive. That was a bad sequence. That was a really bad sequence.”
On the long touchdown drive
“I think we stayed in phase. Mixed the run and pass. Bryce was sharp. I really have a lot of confidence and trust in Bryce when we get in those fourth-down situations to make good decisions and put the ball where he needs to put it. That’s really a credit to him. It was good execution. It was a long, sustained drive.”
On Carolina’s six straight losing seasons
“It’s very frustrating. When you work hard and you believe in the guys you’re doing it with, and I believe in our coaches and players, not getting the results you want is frustrating. So, I’m frustrated most of all for them, but I’m certainly frustrated for the fans, as well. I’ve been in this game a long time. I’ve had a great appreciation for fan bases wherever I’ve been, and what that means to a team and what that means to a city. I understand the level of frustration by the fans. I mean, we had the change here that we had, and you set things — you start to set things in place to make a change. You want it to happen overnight. Sometimes it takes longer than you want. But you have to keep your head down, be strong-willed, keep the vision clear, and come to work every day, and you’ve got to be able to fight your way through the tough times.”
On Bryce Young’s play through 10 games
“Listen, obviously watching him closely, I’m very encouraged and optimistic about a lot of things and who he is and the player he is. He can make every throw, how he processes it, how he’s handling a difficult season so far. I really respect the way he’s handling himself and fighting through it. Physically, I see him every day working hard, getting better, understanding what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, being engaged in the process, him being engaged in the process more and more. He’s great to work with. I love sitting in those meetings with him. We as a group are trying to figure out ways to get better, make this offense better.”
Are you concerned that the losing, big hits could impact Bryce Young for future?
“I (am not), because of who he is as a person. I just think that’s one thing that was clear in the draft process, that his mental toughness and character to me is unquestioned. Nobody is perfect. We all have weaknesses. We all struggle at times mentally, all of us do. Even the most confident guys, the best players in the world, everybody does. I’m sure Bryce has his struggles. But I also believe that he’s got an inner strength that has helped him get to where he’s gotten to. Even though we all know he’s won a lot of games in high school and college, I think he’s made to handle stuff like this, and I don’t think he’ll accept it. I think he’ll continue to elevate his game and elevate this team, and it might just take — it’s taken longer than we all wanted it to, but I can tell you it’s not on his shoulders. We all have a part of it. Every person has a part of it, player and coach, and so we handle it collectively.”