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Notebook: More hits for a beleagured defense

Brian Burns

CHARLOTTE — A Panthers defense that's running low on people put forth another brave effort. 

And after what happened during Sunday's 27-13 loss to the Colts, the next one's going to get that much harder.

Outside linebacker Brian Burns and cornerback CJ Henderson left the games with concussions. To return to play, they have to go through a detailed, multi-step process and be cleared by an independent neurologist. 

All concussions are different, and that can happen in a week sometimes. But since the Panthers' next game is in Chicago on Thursday night, the likelihood they'll be ready dips significantly.

Panthers head coach Frank Reich was asked as he left his press conference if the short week would make it tough for the two starters to return this week. 

"Yes," Reich replied as he stepped off the stage. 

That's the last thing they need. The Panthers already have 11 players on injured reserve, eight of them from the defensive side of the ball. And that doesn't include safety Vonn Bell, who wasn't placed on IR but has missed the last three games with a quadriceps strain. 

And that also doesn't include the other injuries Sunday (more on that later).

— Despite all that, the Panthers' defense held the Colts to 198 yards of total offense. 

Their previous season-low was 280 in the opener, and they were averaging 362.4 yards per game (eighth in the NFL).

And Reich admitted that made the loss that much more frustrating.

"Yeah, it does," Reich said. "That offense had a streak going of scoring 20 points or more, 350 yards every game. Their offense is very explosive. The whole year, they've been very consistent. 

"Our defense came in, and we did what we wanted to do against them and did a great job. It's a credit to (defensive coordinator) Ejiro Evero, the defensive staff, and the players. Played very good on defense."

— Reich clearly did not agree with the ruling of officials on the unnecessary roughness penalty on safety Xavier Woods, saying officials said he launched into Colts receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and hit him in the head and neck area. 

It appeared that Woods put his shoulder pads into Pittman's chest, but the game officials didn't see it that way. So, instead of a third-down stop and forcing the Colts into a field goal try, they got a first down at the 12-yard line, and Jonathan Taylor was in the end zone two plays later for a 10-0 lead and their only offensive score of the night.

"They talked about launching and thought that he hit him in the head and neck, and if he did hit him in the head and neck, it's a penalty," Reich said. "I don't know, I'd have to see the tape. Launching isn't a penalty (in the NFL). Launching and hitting in the neck area, head, or neck area is a penalty; launching and hitting in the body is not a penalty.

"So, I don't know, I didn't see the replay. But you know what, what I was told was that he launched, and he hit him in the head and neck area. And if, in fact, that's what it was, then that's a penalty. If he launched and hit him in the body, then, you know, then that's one that they got wrong."

For his part, Pittman didn't seem to have a problem with it.

"I think it was a clean hit," the Colts receiver said. "I would rather him hit me the way he did than hit me up top. Fortunately, we did get the call, and that helped us score, but really, I think it  was a clean hit. Sometimes you get got, and he got me."

— Other than Burns and Henderson, Reich mentioned four other players dealing with injuries after the game.

Linebacker Chandler Wooten (ankle) was carted off late while starting safety Woods (thigh) was in and out of the game. 

Reserve outside linebacker Luiji Vilain (knee) and tight end Stephen Sullivan (shoulder) also joined a lengthy injury list.

If Burns and Vilain can't go Thursday, the Panthers would be down to DJ Johnson and Amaré Barno and would likely have to elevate Eku Leota from the practice squad for a third time.

View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9.

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