Panthers angry about first loss, but in a productive way

Sam Darnold

ARLINGTON, Tex. — For a team that got handled in yet another third quarter, and suffered its first loss of the year in some embarrassing and uncharacteristic ways, the Panthers weren't necessarily a downcast team Sunday.

If anything, they were a little defiant, after a 36-28 loss to the Cowboys in which so many things went wrong.

"I saw a lot of guys that were pissed off, but in a good way," quarterback Sam Darnold said. "They were eager to go watch the tape and get better from it. So we've got a bunch of good guys in that locker room, resilient guys, and I think that's a great way to put it.

"You can either put your head down and sulk, or you can watch the tape, get better from it, and continue to practice hard and practice well this whole next week getting ready for Philly. we've got a bunch of guys in that locker room who are going to do that."

It's good that they're taking that approach, because there's plenty to work on.

Darnold threw a pair of interceptions in the third quarter. The Cowboys scored 20 unanswered points during that period, taking what had been a positive experience and changing it in a hurry.

But head coach Matt Rhule wasn't screaming and yelling about that — make no mistake, he's clearly not happy with the way they played — but he came into the interview room with almost a resolve, considering they came back to make it a one-score game on the road.

The particulars of the game are clearly disturbing, and point to some season-long trends.

The pass protection wasn't great. Darnold was hit 11 times and sacked five times, after they had done enough to keep him upright throughout the first three games. That's going to make film study a bit of a horror movie for the offensive line this week.

Center Matt Paradis acknowledged their play wasn't good enough, and there was too much pressure. But he also suggested a response was coming.

"Losing sucks. No one enjoys it, that's not why we play the game," Paradis said. "But this team, I believe we have some grit, we have some fire. I strongly believe we're not going to just go in the tank and be in our feelings or whatever you want to call it.

"We'll rally around each other. I love this room. I love this team. I love being around them. I love every guy in there, and I enjoy going to work. I'm fired up to go to work tomorrow with those guys, I can't wait. Today sucked. It wasn't what we wanted. But we'll go tomorrow, and get better."

That kind of answer to what was an otherwise ugly day could be defining for the Panthers.

The reasons for the loss were many, and spread evenly on both sides of the ball. But for a young team that surged to a 3-0 start, the immediate answer was to stiffen their backs, and get back to work.

"It's frustrating, anybody can see that," defensive end Brian Burns said. "But you've got to keep battling. You can't get too down, you can't get too high. We've got to keep battling.

"That's the only positive I take out of this game. All the stuff we went through, the third quarter and all those scores, they were running the ball, and everything not going our way, the turnovers, everything, ... I don't think we stopped battling. And that's what made it a one-score game. It could have got ugly, to be quite honest, you feel me? But that's what I take out of this game. We just have to answer adversity and get back to the drawing board."

Of course, saying so is one thing. Fixing it will be a tangible process, with many specific things to work on.

But as they left the locker room, it was clear that work was what they were prepared to do.

View photos from the field during Carolina's Week 4 game at Dallas.

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