The Carolina Panthers claimed a 10-point victory (25-15) over their rival Atlanta Falcons on Thursday in a result that further reshuffled the NFC South. Starting quarterback P.J. Walker was more of a spectator than an active participant, completing 10-of-16 passing attempts for 108 yards, zero touchdowns, and zero turnovers. Despite Walker’s pedestrian stat line, his game-manager approach gives the Panthers their best shot at achieving current success.
Walker relied on a stout defensive effort and a standout showing from starting running back D’Onta Foreman. The Falcons’ defense failed to contain Foreman, who rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown (4.2 yards per carry) on 31 carries. These Panthers are at their best when running the football effectively.
Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks decided to stick with Walker on a short week after former starting quarterback Baker Mayfield replaced Walker in last week’s debacle against the Cincinnati Bengals. Mayfield led the Panthers on three second-half scoring drives after entering the contest to a 35-0 deficit. Mayfield completed 14-of-20 passing attempts for 155 yards and two touchdowns. It was his best showing of the season. But Mayfield undeniably benefited from a negative game script. The Bengals were content to sit back and nurse a five-score lead at the break. Mayfield’s numbers and performance were assisted by Cincinnati’s softer defensive approach in the second half.
Wilks made a difficult decision at quarterback and Walker undeniably entered Thursday’s contest on a short leash. He was at risk of being replaced by Mayfield for the second consecutive contest if things began in an uninspiring fashion. Walker was held to just nine first-half passing yards as the Bengals intercepted him twice on Sunday. Walker rebounded by ushering his Panthers to victory while regaining Wilks’ faith.
Mayfield possesses more natural arm talent than Walker. Mayfield is more willing to test man coverage and tight-throwing windows. We’ve already witnessed Carolina’s offense sputter with Mayfield at the helm, however. His penchant for turnovers places Carolina in disadvantageous positions and the Panthers simply aren’t good enough to overcome his mistakes. The Panthers are 1-5 in Mayfield’s six starts this season. Walker is 2-3 as a starter this season by comparison.
Former starter Sam Darnold is the wild card. Darnold suffered a high-ankle sprain in the preseason that placed him on the mend until now. But Darnold is healthy again and the Panthers recently activated him onto their 53-man roster. Darnold was a healthy scratch as the team’s No. 3 QB on Thursday, but Carolina’s game of musical chairs at quarterback may afford Darnold another opportunity before the 2022 campaign reaches its final conclusion.
All three of Carolina’s quarterbacks are playing on expiring contracts. Mayfield and Darnold will be unrestricted free agents, and Walker will be restricted. Rookie quarterback Matt Corral will return from a season-ending injury in 2023. Walker gives Carolina their best chance to remain competitive down the stretch, but none of these signal-callers are likely to start next season’s opener (let alone be on Carolina’s roster). The Panthers will almost certainly draft a quarterback in April’s draft.
- Dec 02, 2022
- Dec 02, 2022