Panthers Monday Night Preview
The Panthers will try to salvage their season in their second straight nationally televised game.
The Panthers and Eagles will play at Lincoln Financial Field Monday night, but perhaps they should instead meet inside nearby Wells Fargo Arena, where the NBA's 76ers play.
There have been a number of basketball-related analogies this week, from the use of 'fast break' to illustrate the Eagles' offense to how Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly characterized Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
"He’s built like an NBA power forward," Kelly said.
And then there was Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez.
"It is like a fast break in basketball," Sanchez said, describing the high-tempo offense he will lead in his first NFL start since 2012. "The quarterback is the point guard, and you just have to get rid of it and dish it to the right guy."
As is often the case, the quarterbacks are the biggest storylines heading into Monday night.
After a highly impressive start to his season, Newton has regressed badly during the Panthers' current three-game losing streak. Over those three games, he has just one touchdown, while throwing three interceptions and completing just 48.1 percent of his passes.
But Newton has not gotten a lot of help from his teammates. His suspect offensive line has allowed piles of pressure and his receivers have dropped a number of passes.
"It's not just about him. This is a team game," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "We can put it all on the quarterback and say it's all about the quarterback. But this is a team game, and we as a team have got to do all the things together."
And as a team, the (3-5-1) Panthers are inching dangerously close to fading from the playoff picture. On paper, it seems like the may not have much of a chance on the road Monday night against the (6-2) Eagles, but few are sure what to expect from Sanchez.
After flaming out with the Jets, he signed a one-year deal this spring to backup Eagles starter Nick Foles. But when Foles broke his collarbone on the last play of the first quarter last week against the Texans, Sanchez played the rest of the way. He tossed a couple interceptions, but he also threw for two scores while leading the Eagles to a 31-21 win.
"He had two touchdown passes against Houston that we're like, 'Woah!' Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly said. "He threw those balls, and you were kind of like, 'That was a good throw!'"
With Foles out six-to-eight weeks, Sanchez has a shot to revitalize his career. With the way things ended in New York, many are skeptical his second chance will go well, but perhaps playing 'point guard' in Philadelphia is exactly what he needed.
But if the Panthers are going to salvage their season, they need to take advantage of facing a backup quarterback. And they need their quarterback to settle down while making enough plays to save what could quickly become a lost season.
"It can go south, and it can go north," Newton said. "I don't see a lot of guys moping around, having this 'woe is me' attitude. It's more about the optimism of playing this next game, knowing that we still haven't put that great game that we know we're capable of."