Third quarter collapse
Things got out of hand in the second half of the Panthers 40-20 loss to the Falcons on Sunday, but the doom and gloom hadn't yet set in at halftime. The Panthers only trailed by three points and had finally gotten some momentum on offense to close out the half.
But then, the third quarter happened, and those 15 minutes haven't been kind to the Panthers this season. Carolina leads the league in points allowed in the third quarter with a total of 115 given up this year – and the Falcons accounted for 17 of those on Sunday.
"I just spoke with the team and talked about our third quarter, beginning of the third quarter. Really, our third quarter period. It was not good football," head coach Perry Fewell said on Monday. "It was very inconsistent, it was a lot of mistakes and turnovers, not good run defense, not good alignment, assignment and execution. That's something that we can control, and we did not control that."
Carolina opened the second half with quarterback Kyle Allen coughing up the ball on a strip sack, and things didn't get much better from there. Return man Greg Dortch lost a fumble on a kickoff return and Allen threw another interception on the quarter's final play. What started as a three-point deficit at the beginning of the third quarter quickly grew to a 20-point difference by the time it ended.
With three games left, Fewell said he hopes to turn around the Panthers production in the third quarter.
"I wanted to make that a teaching point for our team moving forward," Fewell said. "That inconsistent play is the thing that hampers us from winning football games."
Committed to Kyle
Despite another three-turnover performance from Allen, head coach Perry Fewell reaffirmed his commitment to the quarterback on Monday.
"We still think we're in the best position with the man that we have right now, but we'll evaluate that week to week," Fewell said while confirming that Allen will start again next Sunday against Seattke.
Last week owner David Tepper referenced that the Panthers were developing third-round pick Will Grier in "a very traditional way," and Fewell's comments didn't sound like the team would be throwing the rookie into the line of fire anytime soon.
Evaluating the new-look offense
With the defensive play calling on his shoulders, there wasn't much time for Fewell to sit back and observe newly promoted offensive coordinator Scott Turner's play calling on Sunday. Now, after reviewing the tape, Fewell was able to provide a bit more insight.
"I thought he really got into the flow in the second quarter of the football game," Fewell said. "The first quarter, the time of possession was kind of lopsided. Then I thought the two-minute drive at the end of the half he really started to feel it. I liked the way he opened up the third quarter. We had a plus-10, plus-10, then we had the sack caused fumble."
Turner's offense certainly looked different than his father's. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel was involved in the run game early and often, even aligning at running back for a play, and the Panthers mixing things up with a reverse play. The younger Turner also leaned heavily on tight end Ian Thomas, who had 10 targets while filling in for Greg Olsen.
Once the Panthers fell behind by two scores or more, though, Fewell acknowledged that Turner had to adjust his plan of attack.
"Scott's only going to get better," Fewell said. "but I was pleased with what he did."
Playing for now, or the future?
There are three games left in the season and the Panthers are out of playoff contention, so that means it's the time of year when coaching staffs have to start considering for the future.
At what point do you shut down your star players to prevent them from sustaining injuries during meaningless plays? Is it time to see what younger or inexperienced players can do? Are you still playing to win, or playing to evaluate talent?
"I think it's a little bit of both," Fewell explained. "I want to put the team in position to win, and the players we put on the field we feel like are guys that can win for us. If some other younger players start to get more reps, then that's their evaluation period also, and we can see if they can help us win in the near future."
View the best behind-the-scenes photos from Carolina's Week 14 game in Atlanta.