For the first time since Week 2 of the 2018 regular season, the Carolina Panthers had zero sacks in a game, pressuring the quarterback just five times versus the Las Vegas Raiders in Sunday's 34-30 loss.
It's no secret that the Panthers defense, which underwent an offseason overhaul is expected to struggle this season, especially after starting four of their rookie draft picks in Week 1, but with talent still on the defensive front, head coach Matt Rhule believes they should have been better.
"We have to be better and have to get a pass rush," Rhule said. "We only had five pressures and no sacks. A little bit of it was how they played with only a run, screen and play-action game but we have a lot of good players on the defensive line that we have to get pressure."
In 2019, the Panthers gave up a league-high 31 rushing touchdowns and 5.2 yards per carry.
Even with the new faces, Carolina allowed three rushing touchdowns and 93 yards to Vegas running back Josh Jacobs.
However, Jacobs only averaged 3.7 yards per carry and neither of the Raiders' running backs rushed for more than 15 yards in a play.
"There were so many third and shorts and I think that just goes back to their ability to run the football and then at the same time get the ball on the perimeters and screens," Rhule said. "There wasn’t a lot of drop-back passes. There were some play actions that hurt us on specific plays but there wasn’t a lot of drop-back passes. There was a lot more run the ball and get the ball to the perimeter."
It didn't help that according to Rhule, headset issues affected some of the defensive playsets in the first half.
"There were about 10-12 times that we called the play in and it wasn't really the defense that we ran in the first half," he said. "We settled down at halftime and found a way to correct that but it's some of those things you don't want to have happen."
While agreeing that there were communication issues on defense, linebacker Shaq Thompson won't use that as an excuse.
“With this technology, you’re going to have your difficulties. I’m pretty sure everybody has an iPhone. And you get that iPhone bug and you’ve gotta buy a new iPhone,” Thompson said. “So maybe we just have to get a whole new headset or something like that. But at the end of the day, we’ve gotta go play ball and get that corrected.”
Thompson, one of the longest-tenured players on the Panthers roster, also sees the potential the D-Line has.
"We have to be more violent and have that willing and want-to attitude on first and second down," Thompson said. "I know my guys have got it. I know our D-line has that in them."
Thompson stressed the importance of a pass-rush, but also said if the Carolina defense can clean up the little things, those problems can be fixed with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers up next on the road.
"We know it's just the minor things. Penalties, making tackles and setting edges," Thompson acknowledged. "I can definitely see it. This is a defense that is more physical and has way more speed than last year's defense and I can see that. It's just the small details. Once we get the small details handled, the sky is the limit."