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Rapid Reactions: Defense solid, offense uneven in loss to Saints

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CHARLOTTE — The good news is, it appears the Panthers still have the kind of defense that can keep them in games.

The bad news is, they may need to until a brand-new offense begins to find itself.

The Panthers couldn't make a solid effort by a depleted defense matter, as the offense failed to sustain much of anything in a 20-17 loss to the Saints.

All the highlights were on one side of the ball, whether it was Frankie Luvu filling up a stat sheet with two sacks, Vonn Bell's interception, or the constant pressure on Saints quarterback Derek Carr.

The problem was the offense wasn't able to make their own plays.

The Panthers managed just 239 yards and 14 first downs (4-of-14 on third downs), and didn't get into the end zone until there was 1:16 left in the game.

After running for 154 yards last week, the Panthers ran for 100 against the Saints, but 34 of that came on quarterback scrambles.

And rookie quarterback Bryce Young couldn't get anything going passing. He finished 22-of-33 for 153 yards, with a touchdown and two-point conversion late to Adam Thielen, but wasn't able to consistently connect on anything downfield.

There was also a sack-fumble he lost and another one that was called back on a penalty.

While the late drive was something to refer to later, it was mostly a home debut to forget for the No. 1 overall pick.

Shaq Thompson

— The Panthers put two starters on injured reserve after Week 1 (cornerback Jaycee Horn and left guard Brady Christensen) and lost another one in the first quarter Monday.

Linebacker Shaq Thompson was carted off the field after he got caught in a pile and suffered an ankle injury.

Thompson was getting up after a play when teammate DeShawn Williams and Saints left tackle Trevor Penning continued to engage each other, and Penning fell across Thompson's right leg.

Players immediately gathered around, and many dropped to one knee while a cart came out to take Thompson to the X-ray room.

He did not return to the game.

He was replaced on the field by Kamu Grugier-Hill, a versatile linebacker who had one of the best training camps on the team. But it's still complicated to lose your defensive signal caller.

— When the Panthers put this roster together, there wasn't a traditional big back on it. That's fine until you get into short-yardage situations.

When your quarterback is small, the problem compounds.

Last week, they tried wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. in that role. Monday night, they trotted backup quarterback Andy Dalton onto the field for an ostensible fourth-and-1 opportunity since Young's not going to be a great sneak-play guy. A false start on right guard Cade Mays kept it from having a material impact, but after two weeks of issues there, it's clearly something they'll be looking at in the coming weeks.

Dalton came on again for a third-and-1 in the fourth quarter but tossed to Miles Sanders for a conversion.

— Kicker Eddy Piñeiro was the part of the offense that worked best, hitting a pair of 50-plus field goals (52 and 54, to be specific).

He's actually hit 23 straight field goals for the Panthers since the game at Atlanta last year when he wasn't as reliable, with the first 19 of those coming last season.

View all the action from the Panthers' game against New Orleans on Monday Night Football.

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