QUEEN CITY NEWS – The Panthers fell Sunday to the Rams at SoFi Stadium, 24-10, as a new era began for Carolina the same way the last one ended: with a loss.
Late in the 3rd quarter, Rams quarterback Matt Stafford marched 80 yards downfield for a big, momentum-shifting touchdown, and a 17-10 lead. The Panthers opened the 4th quarter with a 3 and out including two big tackles on Christian McCaffrey near the line of scrimmage. The momentum continued for LA (3-3) on the next series culminating with a 2-yard rushing TD from Darrell Henderson Jr. and a 24-10 lead.
Things got worse midway through the 4th when the Panthers new starting quarterback PJ Walker left the game following a hit to the head for a medical review. There was no penalty on the play and Walker would not return. Backup quarterback Jacob Eason came in. Easton is the 5th string QB. He looked good on his lone series of plays converting on a first down before a perfectly placed pass slipped through the fingers of Shi Smith and was intercepted, all but sealing the outcome.
The second half also came with some controversy on the sidelines for Carolina (1-5).
There was an incident midway through the 4th quarter on the sidelines between receiver Robbie Anderson and wide receivers coach Joe Dailey that resulted in interim head coach Steve Wilks sending an upset Anderson off to the locker room. Fox Sports only reported it was not injury related.
It was evident at the start of the game that change was in the air on the very first sequence of plays when, for the first time this season, the Panthers scored on their opening drive with a field goal after gaining great field position courtesy of Christian McCaffrey, who racked up 60 yards on the drive. McCaffrey has continued to be the subject of trade rumors.
The defending Super Bowl champion Rams would respond in kind with a 5-yard TD pass from Stafford to Allen Robinson, and an early 7-3 lead.
Walker made his debut as starting QB for Carolina replacing an injured and struggling Baker Mayfield. Walker racked up 39 yards in the first half on 7-of-9 passing, but it was the defense that would come up big in the 2nd quarter. With under two minutes to go in the half, cornerback Dante Jackson picked off Stafford and ran it back 30 yards for the score and a 10-7 lead.
The Panthers also started a new chapter Sunday with Wilks after firing Matt Rhule last week. Al Holcomb takes over the defense and Ben McAdoo remains the offensive coordinator. Wilks, A Charlotte native, served one year as head coach in Arizona in 2018.
The defense again at times looked sharp frequently pressuring Stafford and mostly containing LA’s best player, Cooper Kupp. Kupp finished with 97 yards rushing and catching.
The Panthers fired Rhule last after a 37-15 thrashing by the San Francisco 49ers in front of a largely away team crowd at Bank of America Stadium. Owner David Tepper spoke to the media after the decision and questioned the team’s effort against San Francisco.
Walker finished 60 yards on 10-of-16 passing attempts with no TDs or interceptions. McCaffrey led the way for the Carolina offense rushing for 69 yards and posted 89 yards and 7 catches.
The Panthers return to action next week hosting Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday (1 p.m., Fox Charlotte).