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Monday Brew: Frank Reich evaluates passing game at Atlanta

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CHARLOTTE – Frank Reich explained the Panthers' passing woes in Sunday's season-opening loss to the Falcons.

The surface-level facts boil down to rookie quarterback Bryce Young struggling to stretch the field, averaging 3.8 yards per attempt on a day where none of his completions went farther than 14 yards.

They were without receiver DJ Chark Jr., a known deep ball threat working through a hamstring injury. 

But Reich said Monday he still felt confident in the players who saw action in Week 1 – and that he saw good from Jonathan Mingo, Adam Thielen, and Terrace Marshall Jr., who each played in most of the offensive snaps.

"We just have to execute a little bit better in all areas," Reich said. "Have to put them in better positions, have to execute better. And I'm confident we will."

He mentioned the rookie Mingo, who ran a "couple really good routes." That may have included one of Young's few deep shots of the game, which was overthrown in Mingo's direction. He also highlighted a Thielen route, calling it "killer," but said Young was taken away from it because of what the Falcons' coverage appeared to be. Even though Thielen eventually won his matchup, the ball wasn't thrown in his direction.

Reich also complimented Marshall for his route on the first play on third down. But he mentioned that there were plenty of areas to grow, too.

"We put in a little wrinkle on his third down – the very first third down – we had him (run) something we added late in the week," Reich said. "Terrace does a great job on that. Then there's other times we need to get better separation.

"Then there's other times where – it's a physical day; (it) was a little bit more physical down the field on a couple of throws than I think we're all comfortable with, but we've got to find a way to still win from that. But (I'm) confident in that receiver group."

When it comes to separation, Reich said he isn't concerned about the speed of his group within the context of the NFL at large.

Reich mentioned that there are players like Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who put up more than 200 yards in Week 1, but that the Panthers have enough speed in their locker room anyway – and it isn't the only way to make plays.

"There are a lot of different ways to make plays," Reich said. "Certainly, speed is one of those ways. You got a guy like Tyreek Hill, you know, has 200 yards. I mean, he's just different, right? There's nobody – no team has speed like that – he's in a different category all by himself.

"So other than that, our guys have plenty of speed. I look at the way we run; I look at our receivers' times. We'll find ways to make plays downfield."

– Reich didn't have an update on cornerback Jaycee Horn Monday after the third-year starter left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury.

The severity and length of Horn's recovery is to be determined. 

Jaycee Horn

– Reich took the blame for Young's first interception of two that went the way of Atlanta safety Jessie Bates III. 

He said the Panthers' offense was in a "bad position" before Young's first miscue, as an offensive pass interference call against Thielen and a delay of game penalty on the play directly after pushed them back. 

Reich shouldered the blame for the delay of game, saying he had miscommunicated with Young, and discussed its impact on the ensuing interception. 

"I will say, on the turnover note yesterday, I mentioned … it's not always what (it) appears," Reich said. "One thing I'll say is, like on the first interception, I put a lot of that interception on me. We got in a bad position. We got the OPI called, so we're backed up. Then we get a delay of game call. 

"And that delay of game was 100 percent on me. I had a miscommunication with Bryce. It was 100 percent – that miscommunication was 100 percent on me. It caused the delay of game, so (it) puts us even more backed up and put us in a bad position. So that one's on me."

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– Overall, Reich said he thought Young performed well in his debut.

Aside from those two interceptions, he mentioned Young's accuracy overall and commended his ability to throw the ball out of bounds instead of taking sacks.

Those plays aren't the ones that pad a stat line, but they will help Young stay healthy and do more for the team, Reich said.

"I think he probably had three or four throwaways where he's not taking sacks – you know, we call the play, it wasn't there in the time it should be there, and he got rid of the football and threw it away," Reich said. "I thought that, over the long haul, that's going to help us as a team. It's going to help us stay in phase, and not take sacks; it's going to help him stay healthy. … 

"I thought he did a great job with that, and I thought he threw the ball accurately. We had the two interceptions, the one I don't put on him at all, the second was kind of a couple of different factors. Sure, can we all get better? Can I get better? Yeah, we can all get better. But I thought, overall, he played solid football."

See the Panthers warm up before their Week 1 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.

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