The 2018 season for the Carolina Panthers’ defense has become little more than a gradual lowering of expectations for the unit.
By now, with the Panthers 6-7 and seemingly unable to stop anything that gets thrown at them, the defense has heard pretty much everything that can be thrown at them: They’re “too old, too slow, have lost a step”, etc. etc. etc. – As linebacker Thomas Davis alluded to in a post-game tweet.
It’s been a tough few weeks for us to say the least. I want to apologize to all of our true fans. For all of you that feel like I’m the problem “to old, to slow, lost a step, cant cover, I’ve heard it all. I’ll take full responsibility for it all! #BlameMe
— Thomas Davis (@ThomasDavisSDTM) December 9, 2018
With the exception of Davis and his wingman in Luke Kuechly, both of whom combined for the Panthers’ two takeaways during the day, the defense has done little to prove any of these labels wrong, resulting in a unit that is down on itself and searching for answers.
“The only people we can blame our ourselves,” said safety Mike Adams following Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns. “We were put in great positions to make plays and we just haven’t been making them.”
“We just didn’t execute properly,” lamented cornerback James Bradberry. “Just mental breakdowns.”
Those statements, and others from the defense, parroted the memes that have followed each Panthers loss since the second half of the season began. Defensive end Julius Peppers, however, was able to articulate the feeling that the Panthers now have as a team, having seen their lofty ambitions suddenly turn to dust.
“We are going to continue to play hard and stick together,” said Peppers. “We are going to keep trying to get it right. We have a game next week against the Saints, a primetime game and a divisional game. That’s what our focus is going to from here. There’s really nowhere else to turn to. It’s on to the next game.”
The sort of times that the Panthers are experiencing leave one to wonder whether or not the team has been “broken”, and that the bravado and confidence that has come to be associated with the Panthers has disappeared. But Peppers believes that his team hasn’t lost faith ini tself.
“I don’t feel that it’s a loss of confidence in anything. I just feel we’re not putting a good product on the field,” said Peppers. “We felt like we were going to win today. We felt like we were going to win last week. We feel like we are going to win every game. It’s not for a lack of confidence.”
And then came the meme – One that even Peppers is falling back on.
“It’s just a lack of execution.”