CHARLOTTE – An offense that converts 10-of-15 third downs typically scores more than 10 points. But the Panthers' failure to execute in Baltimore territory resulted in Carolina going 0-for-3 in the red zone.
"We've got to find ways to get the ball in the end zone," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "We're doing some things to stay on the field and move the ball, we just have to finish."
Negative plays and penalties have restricted Carolina's production in the red zone. Another reason has been quarterback Cam Newton not running the ball like he has in previous seasons since returning from offseason ankle surgery and a preseason rib injury.
Newton has 28 career rushing touchdowns, and Shula conceded his diminished role in the running game has had an effect. But despite having an injury-depleted backfield, Shula believes the Panthers have other runners capable of finding the end zone.
"We've got good weapons to run the football other than Cam. There aren't as many as there were a couple weeks ago, but we feel like we've got a good package down there," Shula said. "Does he enhance that package? Yes. But we still feel like we've got other ways to get the ball in the end zone.
"Everybody needs to execute better."
Newton may not be running as frequently, but Shula has been impressed with his passing accuracy. Newton used his arm strength and touch to fit the ball into some extremely tight windows against the Ravens, making completions Shula hadn't seen in seasons past.
In three games, Newton has completed 63.8 percent of his passes and has produced a quarterback rating of 98.2 with no interceptions.
"Cam is throwing the ball probably as accurate as he's been," Shula said. "That's the layer that is going to go unnoticed, and it should because of the way we've played – it's not good enough. But it's important to point those things out, because there are some signs of some good things happening. We just need to see more signs."
After allowing more than 30 points just once last year, the Panthers surrendered 37 to Pittsburgh and 38 to Baltimore in consecutive games. It's been undeniably frustrating for defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
"Absolutely frustrating," McDermott said. "Disappointing. Having said that, when you go through a season, it's a journey. That's what we're going through right now – no different than most of the teams that have gone on to do great things. We've got to realize that, stay mentally tough, stay physically tough and stay together on this. And we'll get through it."
McDermott said playing with gap integrity is essential to fixing the run defense.
"It's just assignment, discipline and technique," McDermott said.
The same three words also apply to the secondary when Carolina dials up a blitz.
"We blitzed a couple times (Sunday), and had we had the right coverage we would have been off the field. That's the disappointing part, honestly, about those pressures," McDermott said. "We can play the coverage better. We're capable of doing that and we will."
"We have to find some answers and some solutions, and that's what we're all about right now," McDermott added. "We're solution oriented right now."