CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coach Ron Rivera suggested it may be time to simplify what the Carolina Panthers are doing on offense after managing just three points against the Chicago Bears.
During his news conference Monday, Rivera said he may be asking too much of his new/young players in terms of the number of formations and personnel groupings they’ve been asked to learn.
“You put some young guys and new guys out on the field and it’s not like you had in the past,” Rivera said. “You are missing some key elements. You are missing a Greg Olsen and a Ryan Kalil and some of the other veteran guys. When communications are made there are little hand signals and their tempo picks up and they can play faster. We’re in a situation where we have so many new guys that it takes a little while to register.”
The Panthers managed just a field goal in a 17-3 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Chicago scored two long defensive touchdown — one on a Cam Newton interception and another when rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel fumbled a pitchout from Newton.
It’s the second time this season the Panthers have failed to score an offensive touchdown.
The loss dropped Carolina (4-3) out of first place in the NFC South. The Panthers visit Tampa Bay (2-4) on Sunday in a divisional matchup.
“There’s no excuse not to come in and find a way to win this football game,” Newton said after the loss to the Bears. “We squandered that opportunity, but I’m not feeling sorry for myself, nor do I expect anyone else to. Life goes on and we just have to get ready for our next opponent.”
The Panthers have been playing without Olsen, who led the team in receptions the last two seasons. The second team All-Pro is on injured reserve recovering from a broken foot and will miss at least three more games.
Carolina also lacks a deep threat.
The Panthers allowed wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. to walk in free agency, figuring the team’s first two draft picks — Christian McCaffrey and Samuel — and veteran receiver Russell Shepard would help stretch the field with their speed. But the Panthers have struggled in that area all season.
On Sunday they had one pass of longer than 20 yards — that a 37-yard reception by Kelvin Benjamin seconds before halftime while the Bears were in prevent defense.
McCaffrey, a running back, leads the team in receptions but hasn’t broken many big plays.
Samuel is a wide receiver with great speed but hasn’t been able to spring himself deep. Rivera suggested the coaching staff may be expecting too much of Samuel — and are putting too much on the rookie’s plate.
With opposing defenses not respecting Carolina’s deep passing game, teams have been able to put an extra safety or two in the box to stuff the running game.
Newton sidestepped a question on whether Carolina’s lack of deep throws are the result of those plays not being called by offensive coordinator Mike Shula or just receivers not being open.
“Sorry, I can’t answer that question. I’m executing the play that is given to me and pretty much trying to check what the defense gives me,” Newton said.
When questioned about the team’s offensive play calling, Rivera said he’s “happy with what we’re doing on offense.”
NOTES: Rivera said middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (concussion) will be seen by an independent physician before the team returns to the practice field Wednesday. Kuechly did not play against the Bears. … Rivera offered no update on the status of center Ryan Kalil (neck) and guard Trai Turner (knee). … Rivera said he is hopeful safety Kurt Coleman will get back on the field next Sunday after missing the last month with a sprained knee.