The Carolina Panthers’ No. 2 wide receiver had zero catches Sunday. The No. 3 receiver had one.
The fourth wideout barely saw action, and the fifth was inactive.
It happened on a day when quarterback Cam Newton passed for a career-low 125 yards and the offense posted seven points. With very little production from any receiver not named Steve Smith, the Panthers’ offense sputtered against Seattle in the 12-7 loss.
“It’s very, very disappointing because I know what type of ability I got,” said Brandon LaFell, the team’s No. 2 wideout. “I can help this team, so when I’m not involved in the offense and not get the ball and we lose a close game like this, it’s tough. All I can do is keep my head up, keep working and get ready for the Bills.”
Smith finished with a team-high six receptions for 51 yards and tight end Greg Olsen led the team in receiving yards with 56. Olsen, who many consider to be the true second target for Newton, had two drops, including one over the middle on third down.
Carolina’s other wide receivers hardly got an opportunity to even drop a pass. Ted Ginn Jr. hauled in one 10-yard pass, but that was it.
“There’s still greatness there,” Ginn said. “We’ve just got to put it all together. (Cam’s) going to go back to the drawing board just like we will, and we’ll come out as a team next week.”
Coach Ron Rivera has voiced confidence in his five-player receiving corps, two of whom weren’t with the team last year. But Armanti Edwards – the team’s MVP from training camp, according to Rivera –was in the game for one snap.
Domenik Hixon has been bothered by a hamstring injury since the beginning of August, and his inactivity Sunday left Carolina with four active receivers.
“I just go out there and play the given play, make my reads,” Newton said. “Take the jerseys off. I’ll throw it to whoever’s open. Whatever the read is that particular play, that’s who I throw it to.”
For LaFell, Sunday marked the fifth game since 2011 that he hasn’t had a catch. Newton attempted one deep pass to him at the end of the third quarter that was an overthrow, but even if LaFell had caught the ball, the play was negated by a holding penalty.
Despite LaFell’s lack of production, Smith defended his teammate.
“When LaFell first got here, I didn’t think he was going to be a guy to step up,” Smith said. “And I think running my routes today next to him, there were some times he was open and the ball just didn’t come his way. But he never complained, he never pouted. He just ran his routes.”
Smith also stumped for LaFell to be re-signed by the Panthers at the end of the year. LaFell is in the last year of his rookie contract, and Smith said he “needs a guy” like him.
“Days like this, maybe I catch all the passes, he’s still running his routes and he still has to be effective and they were accounting for him,” Smith said. “And there are going to be days where I’m running routes and he catches all of them.
“You may think he was ineffective because he didn’t catch a pass. There were routes he was running that made him just as effective as me.”
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