Carolina Panthers' offensive line didn’t get the message

jjones@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 24, 2012 

— An advertisement for Under Armour aired on the Bank of America Stadium video board during halftime of the Carolina Panthers’ Thursday night game against the New York Giants.

“We must protect this house!” the ad said.

The Panthers’ offensive line had not gotten the message.

Carolina’s front line failed to hold back the formidable Giants front four, especially after the Panthers crossed into New York territory, and couldn’t generate any offense to counter the defending world champions.

“Offensively we can’t have the negative plays,” coach Ron Rivera said. “We crossed the 50-yard line and we’d get tackles for loss and we’d get a sack and take us out of field goal range in a couple of situations. We’d move down and get an interception in the two-minute drill.”

The first time the Panthers went across midfield in the first quarter, two straight rushes of no yardage forced a punt. In the second quarter, a DeAngelo Williams rush for no yards and a sack of quarterback Cam Newton sent the Panthers back into their own territory.

In fact, both of the Giants’ sacks came when the Panthers had just crossed midfield. One resulted in a punt, and the second sack in the fourth quarter led to Newton’s second interception of the game.

“It was a frustrating night for everybody. Really embarrassing I think — not just for us but the fans, the coaches for everybody,” said Ryan Kalil, the Panthers’ Pro Bowl center. “We knew it was going to be a physical game and they just out-physicaled us from the beginning. I think the biggest thing, especially offensively, was you get in situations where you got to convert, you got to convert.

“You can only get so many of those a game, and to consistently go out and get down the field and not be able to get past the 50 or the 40 is frustrating. That’s completely on us and obviously they did a really good job defensively.”

Carolina’s offensive line was missing starting right tackle Byron Bell with an ankle injury Thursday and in his place was Garry Williams. The fourth-year player often had to match up against Pro Bowler Jason Pierre-Paul, who registered half a sack and defended two passes.

Scoring on their first four drives, the Giants were able to force the issue on defense. Rivera said a comfortable 20-0 lead like the visitors had at halftime allows for a defense to be more aggressive.

“When you get a lead like (they) had, you can pin your ears back. It’s going to be very difficult on the offense and on the offensive line,” Rivera said. “We would love to be in that position eventually as a team where you take a lead and can pin your ears back and defensively you can make things happen. That’s what happened.

“They’re a veteran team, they’re an experienced team. They’re the defending world champions and you can see why. They get a lead and they can make it tough on your offense.”

Rivera believes his offensive line is still solid despite the performance, saying it’s a, “great line when you have a lead.” Indeed, all seven of Newton’s sacks this season have come when the Panthers are trailing their opponents.

For as porous as the Panthers offensive line was — Carolina had only one first-half play for positive yardage that began in Giants territory — Kalil still believes the team and the line can shore up its early-season struggles and make a turnaround.

“It’s really early still in the season and I think this is still a good team, still a talented offense,” Kalil said, “and we just have to figure out how to get everything working together and the same time and do it consistently and not be one-hit wonders. Because you’re not going to win very many football games and you won’t be able to give your defense a chance.”

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