The Carolina Panthers finally broke a four-game losing skid by defeating the Atlanta Falcons, 19-13.
But despite the victory, Sam Darnold’s woes continue by finishing with only 129 yards on 13 completions.
Worst, he was remotely involved during the team’s scoring opportunities.
Chuba Hubbard extends the Carolina lead! #KeepPounding
— NFL (@NFL) October 31, 2021
As a result, P.J. Walker saw action again but did not complete his lone pass attempt.
At 4-4, the Panthers have a shot in claiming an NFC Wild Card spot.
However, they need Darnold to rediscover his form during the first three weeks of the 2021 NFL season to maintain their chance.
Wanted: Christian McCaffrey
There’s no doubt about Christian McCaffrey’s value to the Panthers, as their record indicates.
They’ve lost four of the five games without him after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 3 versus the Houston Texans.
It’s like their energy disappeared when he started to sit down games, especially on defense.
But while McCaffrey’s return remains indefinite, what’s certain is that his absence affected Darnold’s production.
Panthers HC Matt Rhule and GM Scott Fitterer each called Christian McCaffrey on Friday night to tell him that, regardless of trade rumors including the star RB, they never discussed or even considered trading him to Houston for Deshaun Watson, per sources
— Eric👀Schefter (@EKaplan15) November 1, 2021
The running back from Stanford is the heart and soul of their offense because of his versatility.
He can change a game’s outcome by either collecting yards through the ground or by catching passes.
Without him, Carolina’s offense looked pedestrian, even in their win over Atlanta.
During their 3-0 start, Darnold had quarterback ratings of 49.3, 80.5, and 61.7, respectively.
Sam Darnold took a hit 😳
— PFF (@PFF) October 31, 2021
But over the last five games, his highest was 56.3 against the Falcons.
He even had a 17.4 rating in their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, wherein he had 177 yards and three interceptions.
Darnold threw only one pick during their three-game win streak.
In contrast, he had seven over their last five games.
Worst, even wide receiver Robby Anderson is in a slump which doesn’t help Darnold’s cause either.
Imagine being Robby Anderson getting out of New York, signing a new contract, and having a career year only for Sam Darnold to come back and almost end ur career pic.twitter.com/qIYX8rbl7Z
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) October 31, 2021
Gone are the days when experts mentioned that a new environment would help uplift his game.
Unfortunately, it highlights the need to put the right pieces around him to function well.
A Change At Quarterback?
Darnold’s struggles will only increase head coach Matt Rhule’s decision to check what Walker has to offer.
Sadly, the backup who had a solid preseason isn’t showing much during the games that matter.
Through two games, Walker completed only three of 15 attempts for 33 yards.
The disappointing production they’re getting at quarterback amplifies talks of the Panthers trading for Deshaun Watson.
The severity of Sam Darnold's injury will have an impact on whether the Panthers decide go out and get a QB to pair with P.J. Walker.
Still too early to know about Sam's injury, though.
— Jonathan M Alexander (@jonmalexander) October 31, 2021
However, that rumor looks like a dead-end given Houston’s demands as the trade deadline nears.
Therefore, the Panthers hope that either one of two things will happen to save their season.
First, McCaffrey returns to revitalize their sputtering attack.
Second, Darnold breaks out of his slump and regains his form during the first three weeks.
As a Panthers fan I’d rather lose with Cam Newton than win with Sam Darnold.
— Rod (@rodimusprime) October 24, 2021
Until their star running back returns, Darnold has no choice but to challenge himself to be the team’s leader on the field.
Having McCaffrey back isn’t guaranteed to end well, given the number of games and practices he missed.
Therefore, Darnold must be at his best, especially next week when the Panthers go on the road to face the 7-1 Arizona Cardinals.
A win over the Cardinals could be the confidence booster that he needs to turn things for the better.