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Carolina Panthers

Offense frustrated by "pathetic" penalty problems

Ikem Ekwonu

SEATTLE — Panthers head coach Frank Reich is not a man given to emotional overreactions.

So when he used words like "totally inexcusable" and "pathetic" early in his post-game press conference, you could tell things had reached a certain point.

While there were many problems in a 37-27 loss to the Seahawks at Lumen Field, the self-inflicted wounds were most troubling to Reich after that game.

"I would just say this as a general statement," Reich said. "First of all, what we said in there was, and I mean, I have a very strong belief in our team and our players. I have a very strong belief in our coaches, and I know we can be a good football team if we don't beat ourselves. That being said, what we did, the number of penalties that we had on offense was pathetic.

"And, you know, that starts with me, as an offensive coach, that starts with our offensive coaches, you know, getting our players ready, and that starts with our players, that's unacceptable. I mean, it's like we never played in the noise before. We knew it was coming."

Particularly galling to all of them were the eight false start penalties, triggered in part by the noise at the famously loud Lumen Field. Seven of those were on the offense (an eighth on the punt team by linebacker Chandler Wooten), and left tackle Ikem Ekwonu had four of those.

As it got loud and quarterback Andy Dalton tried to audible, the penalties kept them out of any kind of flow a number of times.

"I mean, we have to be able to change plays," Reich said. "I mean, on, on the road quarterback has to be able to change plays. That's going to happen.

"So we talked about keeping our poise, and we didn't do that."

After one of the false starts, Ekwonu grabbed the side of his helmet, visibly frustrated with his own play.

"You know, you never want to be the guy that's doing that, and I was that guy way too many times today," Ekwonu said. "So just frustrated with myself, just a slip-up with my body language there.

"It's something I don't want to do, but, you know, I'm just frustrated."

They all were.

As a team, they had 13 penalties for 82 yards total. On a day when they gained a season-high 378 yards, that could have been survivable, but those 5 yards at a time became symbolic of a day that started to slide on them in the second half.

Reich seemed genuinely puzzled by it since they practiced all last week with speakers blaring crowd noise so loud that Dalton was hoarse when he came in on Thursday. But the preparations didn't work, and that seemed to leave Reich looking for answers as well. Reich said he couldn't recall a single false start in Wednesday's practice.

"I mean, Wednesday, it was so loud out there, you couldn't even think," Reich said. "But, you know, as coaches and as players together, you just, if you have that many self-inflicted things, it's hard to overcome those.

"And, so we've got to learn from that for sure."

The lesson wasn't lost on Ekwonu, who said his "focus" wasn't where he expected it to be.

"My focus just, it wasn't good enough at all," he said. "Jumping offsides four or five times is ridiculous. You know, something like four or five times in a season. Four or five times in a game is ridiculous. Something I've got to get better at that.

"I felt like we prepared really well this week with the noise coming up and, you know, I just didn't get it done. Basically, what it boils down to, I'm not sure I have the perfect answer for you, but yeah, I just didn't get it done."

Ekwonu was far from the only one frustrated by the missteps. Right tackle Taylor Moton was flagged twice for false starts, and rookie left guard Chandler Zavala once (which could have easily been called on Ekwonu as well).

"It's not who we are, you know, we're a pretty disciplined team, and we didn't show that today," center Bradley Bozeman said. "We had too many false starts, whoever it was on, you know, whether it was me, whether it was a tackle or the guards, whatever it was,, it's not good enough. So we've got to fix that and move forward.

"We play crowd noise every single day at practice. We pump it in; we try to make it louder than it is out there. We didn't execute today."

Toward that end, Reich preached a message of accountability to everyone in that locker room in a protracted post-game talk, which lasted longer than the normal cooling-off period before he came to his press conference.

"I do know this, I do know in this locker room there's two things that are going to happen," Reich said. "One, there is belief, and number two, there will be no finger-pointing. That's not going to happen. We're each going to own our mistakes, man up to our mistakes.

"We understand that the mistakes are collective, coaches and players together, we've got to get better. But we each individually have to look at our specific area in a way that we can individually get better as well."

View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 of the regular season.

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