Too many players on the field. Too few on the field.. A handful of holding penalties. A pass that went to a Buffalo Bills cornerback with nothing but open field in front of him.
If there was a mistake to be made, the Carolina Panthers found a way to make it Friday in a 27-14 preseason loss that was worse than the final score suggests. The first half included four holding penalties. There was a penalty the Bills declined for 12 Panthers defenders being on the field when the ball was snapped; declined because the Bills scored on that play anyway.
What was Panthers coach Ron Rivera’s take on all that self-destruction?
“The biggest thing, more than anything else, is you can’t just show up. You’ve got to show up and play well. You just can’t make the mistakes we made,” Rivera said.
“There were too many little mistakes that were really maddening ... Like watch guys (failing to) line up properly. Guys doing the wrong thing. That’s when you’re really talking about discipline.”
The Panthers fell behind 17-3 in the first half and that was much to do with their second-quarter penalties. Four different offensive linemen -- Trai Turner, Taylor Moton Greg Little and Dennis Daley -- each committed a holding penalty in a span of about six minutes (Moton’s was declined by the Bills).
In the final minute of the first half, the Panthers frantically tried to substitute several front-seven defensive players. Three ran off the field and one didn’t make it to the sideline before the snap, drawing a penalty. Except the Bills didn’t need the help; backup quarterback Matt Barkley found wide receiver Duke Williams in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown pass.
Granted, this is the preseason; there were no tangible stakes for the Panthers’ record. However, this symphony of sloppiness should give the coaches abundant matters to correct before the next preseason game against the New England Patriots on Thursday — in which key starters such as quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly will play, Rivera said.
Center Matt Paradis and guard Greg Van Roten sat out the first preseason game against the Chicago Bears, so this was the first time for the offensive line to function together in a game setting. Synergy is more at a premium for offensive lines than any other unit, so the penalties seemed particularly troubling.
Rivera cut some slack, saying he thought a couple of the holds — particularly rookie Davis’s — were marginal calls.
“This is their first game as a group,” Rivera said. “A lot of things need to be worked out.
“Those are subjective penalties. I didn’t necessarily agree with all of them. But you certainly don’t want to see that.”
Pro Bowl defensive lineman Gerald McCoy, in his tenth NBA season, wasn’t happy about all the mistakes, but says working out such kinks is what the preseason is about.
“To be successful in this league, you’ve got to reset,” McCoy said.
“That’s what the coaches are really looking for: See how consistent you can be in practice, then go into the games and then resetting. That’s what the NFL is about.”
Based on the way the Panthers performed Friday — particularly in the first half — the reset looks vast between now and the flight to New England.