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Matt Rhule said the Panthers are changing their offense this week. What you can expect

·3 min read
Carolina Panthers running back Chuba Hubbard rushes between Minnesota Vikings defenders for a touchdown during first quarter action at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, October 17, 2021.

Carolina Panther coach Matt Rhule said Monday that his team’s offense is about to “redefine who we are” by taking the ball out of quarterback Sam Darnold’s hands more often and putting it more into the hands of the running backs.

“I can just tell you right now you’ll see a vastly different look from us moving forward,” Rhule said Monday in his press conference the day after Carolina’s third straight loss, a 34-28 overtime defeat against Minnesota. “We’re not going to line up and drop back and throw it 40 times a game and think that that’s going to win the game for us. It hasn’t…. So we’re going to redefine who we are. And we’re going to run the football. And we’re going to protect our quarterback and we’re not going to turn the ball over anymore. And that’s the only way that we’re gonna win.”

Rhule said the Panthers should have stuck with the run more often in the loss to Minnesota on Sunday. Darnold threw the ball 41 times in that game, while Carolina ran the ball only 23 times. Lead running back Chuba Hubbard got 11 carries in the first half, but only five in the second half.

Rhule spoke Sunday after the loss about the Panthers needing to find their identity. By Monday afternoon at his news conference, he had decided that running the ball needed to be re-established as the primary offensive focus.

“We’re not doing a good enough job as coaches of committing to it and staying with it,” Rhule said. “I came into this week saying I wanted to run the ball 33 times, and we didn’t get that done.”

The Panthers fell 10 runs short of that mark. Rhule also said he and offensive coordinator Joe Brady — who made his name with a pass-happy offense in the college ranks at LSU — were on the same page about redefining the offense.

“Me and Joe are great,” Rhule said. “Let me say that first.”

Rhule said part of the reason that the run needed to be emphasized more is that almost all of the team’s turnovers are happening on pass plays. Although Darnold threw only one interception in 41 attempts Sunday — on the game’s first offensive play — Carolina’s two lost fumbles came on pass plays. Wide receiver DJ Moore fumbled when being hit after a catch and Darnold fumbled while being sacked. Darnold completed just 17 passes, for a season low 41.5%.

With running back Christian McCaffrey out, Rhule said defenses have frequently rushed five players against Carolina instead of the usual four, double-teamed Moore and dared the rest of the Panthers’ receivers to beat man-to-man coverage. Too often that hasn’t happened.

It’s difficult to play that sort of defense when McCaffrey is on the field, because he almost always beats man-to-man coverage. But he will miss at least the next two games with an injured hamstring.

Rhule said he would again like to run the ball around 33 times against the New York Giants in Carolina’s next game Sunday. “Let’s not drop, drop, drop back and throw the ball 40 times,” Rhule said. “That’s just not going to win for us.”

Darnold’s passing yardage numbers and effectiveness have dropped dramatically in the team’s past two games. He also has thrown six interceptions in Carolina’s last three games, when the team has gone 0-3. Darnold threw only one interception in the first three games, all victories.

“Sam’s not playing well enough,” Rhule said, adding that he and the assistant coaches weren’t coaching well enough, either.

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