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Friday Brew: Taking a wide view of the offense

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CHARLOTTE — There are fine-point things Panthers head coach Frank Reich is thinking about in the aftermath of Thursday's loss to the Bears, whether it's this player or that one or second-guessing individual play calls.

But when he gathered his coaches Friday morning, it was more of a 30,000-foot view of their offensive struggles and how to fix them.

The Panthers gained a season-low 213 yards in last night's loss and have scored two offensive touchdowns in the last three weeks, so the problem is an acute one.

Reich said Friday afternoon that those kinds of meetings aren't rare and that he and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown have those kinds of philosophical talks often.

"You always have your hand on both things, kind of big picture and micro and macro issues," Reich said Friday. "That's my job, and Thomas, as the coordinator, we can kind of look at that. And then on the micro level, always paying attention to the details, position coaches really making sure we carry out the micro details. But then involving them, as it were, in any philosophical discussions.

"Like there was a discussion today with the offensive staff, hey, let's talk about where we're at right now, any adjustments, any philosophical adjustments that we need to make and, you know, talk about personnel, talk about scheme, because we have this little bit of extra time here this weekend."

Reich acknowledged that he's not thinking about making any specific staff or lineup changes today, but he's open to anything that's going to fix this, and the sooner, the better.

Asked specifically if he'd consider replacing Brown as play-caller after three games, Reich said he knows from all his years in that role that fixing a larger problem is seldom as simple as a this-or-that.

"Obviously, as the head coach, as I said earlier, I've got to look at everything I do," he said. "I understand, though, as a longtime play-caller myself, that when things aren't going well, it's really, really easy to point the finger at play-calling. So, I don't want to overreact to that. I'm going to continue to evaluate everything and do what we think is best for the team.

"But like I said, because of my experience calling it, I understand how much responsibility and how the finger gets pointed when it's, it's usually several factors. I'm not saying it's not important. It is important, and it does factor. But I just don't want to jump to any quick conclusions."

— Reich admitted he would have rather let quarterback Bryce Young take a shot late on a fourth-and-10 rather than let Eddy Piñeiro attempt a 59-yard field goal in a place where the conditions are suboptimal at best.

But he said he did so after consulting with the team's analytics staff and playing the percentages, even though they were 3-of-3 on fourth-down conversions earlier in the game.

"I do feel like, in retrospect, even if I did confirm that the percentages are what they are," he said. "I mean, an outdoor 59-yard field goal is in the 40 percent, 40-ish percentiles. A fourth-and-10 conversion over the last lot of years is about 27 percent. So clearly, the odds are in favor of kicking the field goal.

"But, you know, give Bryce that moment. In hindsight, the reason is that there was still time enough left on the clock that even if we got the conversion, we still had time to drive down and score. So it's easy to second-guess yourself. I wish I'd gone the other way. I considered all the options. I went with the statistical play. . . . So I probably wish we'd gone for it on fourth-and-10 even though it's a low percentage."

Reich said part of his mental math was also taking into account how well the defense was playing, and he thought a game-tying field goal still gave them a chance to win in overtime.

— If there was one eye-opening play on offense (in a good way), it was the 45-yard shot to wide receiver Mike Strachan.

Reich was in Indianapolis when they drafted the 6-5 wideout from Division II Charleston (West Virginia) in the seventh round. Even at his size, he ran pre-draft 40s in the low-4.5-second range, making him a unique combination of size and speed.

"Was encouraged with the big play that he made," Reich said. "He's a big man, and he's fast. He's got good feet, he's a good route-runner, good hands. Drafted him when I was in Indianapolis as a kind of a low-round draft pick developmental player, and really excited about his continued progress.

"He has some unique skills as far as his size and speed and certainly flashed. And has looked really good in practice."

— The Panthers made a change on the practice squad Friday, releasing cornerback Mark Milton and adding nose tackle Rashard Lawrence.

Lawrence was most recently with the Dolphins practice squad. Originally a fourth-round pick of the Cardinals out of LSU, he's played in 25 games with 13 starts.

View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Chicago Bears in Week 10 of the regular season.

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