CHARLOTTE – The day after the Panthers got pummeled in a Week 3 loss to the New York Giants, left tackle Jordan Gross warned that continued inconsistent play would add up to an 8-8 record.
Gross was being generous.
"Consistency is our biggest thing," Gross said following another incomplete performance in Sunday's loss to Seattle. "We go, 'Bad game, good game, bad game, good game, bad game.' That's not going to lead to a lot of wins.
"We've got to learn how to be consistent, to be the same team every week, put out the same product every week. Right now, we're not doing that."
To win in the National Football League, it usually takes good showings on both offense and defense in a given game to win. There are exceptions to be sure, days like Week 4 in Atlanta, when both teams played well on both sides of the ball but somebody had to lose.
But the majority of the time, teams with the ability that the Panthers possess win when they play well on both sides of the ball.
The Panthers simply haven't gotten the job done nearly enough to date.
"Disappointed is a good word for it, because I think we've had opportunities," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "You go back and look at the opportunities we've had. We open up at Tampa Bay, and we played pretty doggone well on the defensive side, but we kind of hampered ourselves on offense. We play well enough against New Orleans to win, then don't play very well at all in any phase of the game against the Giants.
"Then we come out and give Atlanta all they want but lose at the end – that was obviously disappointing. Then against Seattle, you look at the opportunities we missed."
Last year, with rookie quarterback Cam Newton directing a potent offense, the Panthers were hard to beat when the defense was on its game. In the defense's best eight games in terms of total yardage allowed, Carolina went 6-2. In the defense's worst eight games, Carolina went 0-8.
So far this season, it hasn't worked that way.
Last week against Seattle and in the opener against Tampa Bay, the defense allowed an average of 286 yards – 150 fewer yards than the average the unit allowed in the three games in between.
Yet, Carolina lost to both Seattle and Tampa Bay.
"Today, we stunk," tight end Greg Olsen said after the Panthers failed to score an offensive touchdown against the Seahawks. The unit scored just one against Tampa Bay and against the Giants.
"That's not going to get it done in the NFL," Olsen said.
Coming off a 6-10 season, a common school of thought made a lot of sense. Given what the offense did in 2011, the Panthers should contend for a playoff berth if the defense can just pick up its level of play.
The theory assumed that the offense would pick up where it left off, but through five weeks it's instead left to pick up the pieces during the bye week.
Carolina finished last season ranked fifth in the NFL in scoring and seventh in total offense. Currently, the Panthers are 20th in scoring and 22nd in total offense.
However, Carolina produced 35 points against New Orleans and 28 against Atlanta, so the capability is there.
The consistency is not – yet.
"It is very disappointing," Rivera said. "But, it's still early."