Skip to main content
Carolina Panthers

The Day After: Correcting defensive execution 


CHARLOTTE – The Panthers aren't pointing fingers for Sunday's overtime loss to the Falcons. They're not focusing on all the bad, either, because there were good things to build upon in Atlanta.

But interim coach Steve Wilks was clear both immediately after the game and the day after that one of the biggest takeaways from this season's first Falcons matchup would be finding a way to finish. And one of the first places to start would be with the defense.

Carolina's defense has spent much of this season bailing out the offense while it struggled to stay on the field and score points. But in Atlanta, the Panthers' offense put up big plays late while the defense let some long drives get away. 

The Falcons were held to just 124 total yards through the first half but wound up with 406 by the end of the game, including an overtime period.

Atlanta put up a 62-yard touchdown drive, a 68-yard field goal drive, and a 75-yard touchdown drive all in the second half, while the Panthers' defense struggled to contain explosive plays from Damiere Byrd, Kyle Pitts, Tyler Allgeier, and Caleb Huntley – all of whom gained at least 30 yards on a single play.

"It's very simple, just execution," Steve Wilks said when asked about the second-half defense. "I know that's a cliche, but we've got to execute. We've got to detail our work."

Atlanta quarterback Marcus Mariota finished the day with 253 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, and added another 43 yards on the ground. That included a 30-yard scramble during overtime, which set up the game-winning field goal from Younghoe Koo.

"We knew Mariota was a scrambling quarterback; he's going to buy time with his feet," Wilks said. "We've got to do a great job on the back end as far as plastering, which means get tight to your coverage when he starts to scramble. A lot of times, we lost coverage, which we can't do."

Defensive back Myles Hartsfield added his perspective from the field Monday. When asked about what caused Atlanta to exploit some wrinkles in the Panthers' defense late in the game, he said it comes down to communication and not making the same mistake twice.

"I don't think anything causes it; it might just be mental errors here and there that happen earlier in the game," Hartsfield said. "We have so much passion and so much effort that goes on that people don't really see (early mistakes). So it might be stuff that happened earlier that they just come back to, and we never corrected it.

"We just have to communicate with one another and be on the same page, so if somebody moves on their side, we can react to it. That's what I really think it is."

– Wilks said the Panthers did not have plans to work out any other kickers after Eddy Piñeiro missed two crucial kicks at the end of the Falcons' game.

He reiterated the team's support of Piñeiro, who had only missed one field goal attempt (14-of-15) and was perfect on extra points (12-of-12) before his pair of mistakes Sunday.

"Eddy's still a part of our team, a major part of what we're trying to get done," Wilks said. "And as I mentioned yesterday, in all three phases, we could have done better. If you ask Eddy, he definitely wanted to make those kicks as well as we all wanted them. One guy did not lose this football game."

– Wilks confirmed Carolina would be moving forward with PJ Walker as the starting quarterback for the fourth week in a row when they head up to Cincinnati this week.

Walker put up a career-high 317 yards on 19-of-36 passing, which included the 62-yard Hail Mary touchdown to DJ Moorewith 12 seconds left.

Walker's role as a downfield passer has increased since his first start at the Rams when the Panthers took a more conservative approach to their offense. Wilks said Walker had earned the coaches' trust since then.

"With anything in life, it's all about time," Wilks said. "We've seen over the last couple of weeks, with him putting the time in (and) with us, as coaches, giving him the opportunity to perform with the game plan. He has shown that he can handle certain things, so I'm very pleased."

Baker Mayfield, who has returned to full practice from an ankle injury, will continue to back Walker up. Sam Darnold is still progressing from a high ankle sprain that landed him on injured reserve to start the season. He has just over one week to return to the 53-man roster after he was designated to return from IR two weeks ago.

– Wilks also declined to comment on the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on Moore after the Hail Mary.

Moore was called for removing his helmet after the score (though he appeared to be out of bounds before he did). The penalty pushed Piñeiro's attempt for the game-winning extra point from a 33-yard attempt to a 48-yard attempt.

"One thing that I'm not going to do, and we're not going to do here, is try to officiate the game," Wilks said. "They made that decision. They made the call, and we're going to move forward with that."

– Defensive end Henry Anderson returned to the locker room Monday and spoke to reporters briefly for the first time since he was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list on Oct. 25.

He did not delve into details about his situation but said he was dealing with a "personal, private" issue and hoped to return.

– Safety Jeremy Chinn said he had been given "a different perspective" since landing on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

He's eligible to return for this week's game against the Bengals but said he would be "day-to-day." He acknowledged this was the longest time he's had to miss because of any injury in his career, and was noncommittal when asked for a timeline on when he might return.

View the best photos from the pre-game, warmups and game action in Week 8 between Carolina and Atlanta.

Related Content