The Kyle Allen magic finally came to an end
Lofty expectations surrounding the Carolina Panthers were dealt a crushing blow Sunday in the wake of a 51-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara. Backup quarterback Kyle Allen suffered the first loss of his professional career as a starter, throwing his first three interceptions in the lopsided loss. The defeat marked the biggest margin of defeat for the team during their 2019 campaign.
From the outset, Carolina’s defense had no answer to the versatile rushing attack of the 49ers, who remain unbeaten and lead the way both in their division and in the race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoff picture. Tevin Coleman rushed for over a hundred yards and three touchdowns for San Francisco; Deebo Samuel, Matt Brieda and Raheem Mostert continued the onslaught, adding two more touchdowns and contributing two more rushing yards (232) as the Panthers had total yards.
The Panthers struggled in all aspects of the game, suffering under a relentless assault from a ball-hawking defense while failing to stop 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from adding two touchdown strikes of his own. Turnovers, poor special teams play and the inability to stymie the 49ers rushing attack cost the team in field position and the time of possession battle. More importantly, it cost the team its third loss, falling further behind the division-leading New Orleans Saints.
Multiple narratives will haunt the team as it attempts to rebound with a home game in Week 9 against the Tennessee Titans on November 3rd in Charlotte. Shoring up the porous rush defense will be an imperative with both Saints games remaining on the slate, as will finding the answer on special teams returning punts. Questions will continue to abound over the wisdom of piling on the carries to star halfback Christian McCaffery, who played every offensive snap until the team began to slow down in the final quarter of play.
These issues will take a backseat to the hottest topic of discussion among Panthers fans right now: the quarterback controversy between backup Allen and injured starter Cam Newton. For the first time in his professional career, Allen had a miserable day, throwing three interceptions and failing to reach 200 yards passing for the second time in 2019. He received poor protection from his offensive line, enduring seven sacks to go along with the interceptions.
With Newton now traveling with the team and nearing a return to practice, the discussion no longer turns to whether the former-MVP should reclaim his starting job, but when he will reclaim it. Any whispers of trade rumors surrounding Newton, improbable as they were before Sunday’s blowout loss to the 49ers are now shut down. If the team has any hope of contending in the crowded NFC playoff picture, it will ride on the strength of Cam’s injured foot.
For the Panthers, the struggle to contain San Francisco marks a bitter come down from the early success enjoyed by Allen in his stretch filling in for the injured Newton. Now, the team must rally to keep pace with the Saints and work to scratch out a playoff spot with the toughest stretch of their schedule lying ahead.
McCaffery rushed for 117 yards on 14 carries, with a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion effort on Sunday. He also added four catches for 38 yards receiving, tied for second-most on the day for the Panthers. McCaffery sat out most of the fourth quarter once it became clear that the game was out of reach.
The Panthers (4-3) will host the Tennessee Titans (4-4) at home. The Titans enter the game having defeated fellow NFC South rival Tampa Bay 27-23 in Nashville. The meeting will be the first since 2015, when the Panthers defeated the Titans on the road.