SEATTLE — For the third week in a row, the Panthers were left reeling by more injuries on defense, with these coming in waves.
After losing cornerback Jaycee Horn to a hamstring injury that landed him on IR in Week 1, and losing linebacker and team captain Shaq Thompson to a season-ending broken leg last week, the Panthers were hit with even more on Sunday.
Fellow starting linebacker and new team captain Frankie Luvu didn't return in the second half with what coach Frank Reich called a "hip pointer."
"I mean, losing Uce, you know, that's one of our better players, you know," outside linebacker Brian Burns said. "I would love to have him on the field, of course, but this is a team thing, man; you've got to continue to hold the rope."
That's a noble sentiment and the thing they have to say, but Luvu wasn't the only one. They also lost starting safety Xavier Woods (hamstring) and cornerback CJ Henderson (ankle) in the first half, leaving them shorthanded in the second half as the Seahawks outscored them 25-14 after the break.
The cumulative toll of the personnel losses is one thing. The emotional toll of losing key leaders like Horn, Thompson, and Luvu is another for a team that's struggling through an 0-3 start.
"Yeah, of course," nickel Jeremy Chinn said. "You know, it goes beyond football, beyond the locker room. Obviously, you think about those guys; I hope those guys are good.
"But you know, obviously, when you're out there, it's not something you can really think about; it's just my job, and you know, we've got to execute."
Burns said that while the attrition obviously doesn't help, he saw an offense that scored 27 points and thought they should have held up their end of the deal. The Panthers held the Seahawks to five field goals early (the longest of which was 43), so the red zone defense was good early. They also limited the Seahawks to 3-of-13 on third downs, also a positive outcome.
"How I feel is that 27 points is enough to win," Burns said. "I feel like the defense, no matter the conditions, we let that go because 27 points is definitely enough to win in this league. So we've got to get the important stops when we need them for the fourth quarter.
"I mean, we were pretty salty in the red zone. It's not bad, but we've got to hold the rope, man."
And while there's a reasonable expectation of adjustments with a new staff and a new roster, Reich said he wasn't using that or the injuries as an excuse.
"There's been a number of changes but of course, we're never going to look at it like woe is me, right?" Reich said. "I mean, new staff, a lot of injuries, my guess is everybody's dealing with the same thing we're dealing with. That's just what I assume.
"Because I've dealt with this before, and so, I've got confidence in our roster and the depth that we have. And I think a lot of guys have stepped up. And, yeah, it's a new coaching staff, and I feel like we're getting better in some ways as a staff and as players, and in each unit, it wasn't good enough to win for the first three weeks. But, we'll keep fighting and scratching."
— Reich knows the 0-3 start will bring criticism, and he had pointed remarks about the things that led to the loss Sunday, such as the penalties.
But he also preached the long view. In his first year as a head coach in Indianapolis, the Colts started 1-5 but finished 10-6 and went to the playoffs.
"Same way you get out of everything else, keep going," Burns said. "You know, it's a long season, 17 games, this is just the third game. Of course, you would love to start faster, but you don't need to be dwelling on that s--- all the time."
So when Burns was asked about Reich sharing the message of his first Colts team, Burns said it resonated but was careful to point out they weren't 1-5 yet.
"Yeah, I don't plan to let it get to that," he said.
Veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston knows the ways of Reich and as a 13-year veteran, is one of the people they lean on in the locker room for perspective.
"My point is that's just life lessons," Houston said. "There's so many life lessons in this game that teach you you've got a choice. You can fight or fold, and I pray that we continue to fight. We learn, we'll grow, we'll build from it.
"It's early, it's only Week 3. It's a long season. We play 17 games. We're still figuring out who we are as a whole."
— In addition to those three injuries on defense, rookie wide receiver Jonathan Mingo left with a concussion.
With starting quarterback Bryce Young inactive because of last week's ankle injury and outside linebacker DJ Johnson and safety Jammie Robinson inactive, the only drafted rookie on the field by the end of the day was fourth-round guard Chandler Zavala.
— While quarterback Andy Dalton threw it a career-high 58 times Sunday, he also spread it among a number of targets.
View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 of the regular season.