CHARLOTTE — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera isn’t going to let the third-biggest loss in franchise history rush him into putting Cam Newton back on the field before he’s ready.
Rivera said Monday that Kyle Allen will remain the team’s starting QB this weekend when the Panthers host the Titans while Newton continues to rehab from a mid-foot sprain. Allen led the Panthers to four straight victories before throwing his first three career interceptions in an embarrassing 51-13 loss at San Francisco on Sunday.
“We have to make sure that Cam is ready,” Rivera said. “The last update I got is he is going through his rehab and as he continues to go through that we will give you an update where he is. And we’ll see. But right now, we’re going into this game with Kyle as our starter.”
Allen struggled against the league’s top-ranked pass defense.
Rivera felt like Allen got out of his comfort zone and tried to do too much after the Panthers (4-3) fell behind. He said the second-year quarterback needs to understand there isn’t a “24-point play.”
Rivera said Allen should have taken what the defense was giving him, which was checkdown throws to running back Christian McCaffrey and tight end Greg Olsen.
“We saw how very calm and cool he had been for the most part” in the first four games, Rivera said. “We saw him taking the opportunity he had in front of him. But (on Sunday) we saw more throws downfield than we had in the last four weeks. If he stays within his abilities he can help us a lot.”
Newton declined to address reporters after Sunday’s game and hasn’t done an interview since his last action in a Week 2 home loss to Tampa Bay.
Despite an awful day by the Panthers overall, McCaffrey was still effective, racking up 117 yards rushing on just 14 carries. He had 155 yards from scrimmage and remains in the hunt for league MVP honors. No matter what the score is, McCaffrey’s motor never seems to stop.
The Panthers need to settle on a left tackle, and it needs to happen soon. Rookie Dennis Daley had started the last few games at left tackle, but the Panthers decided to move right tackle Taylor Moton to the left side on Sunday and start Daryl Williams at right tackle.
That experiment lasted just one series; Williams was benched after giving up a sack. At that point, Daley entered the game at left tackle and Moten shifted back to right. But it didn’t matter who was playing left tackle; the Panthers allowed seven sacks on the day.
Defensive end/outside linebacker Bruce Irvin may be finding a home in Carolina after bouncing around the league a bit. He had two sacks, including one for a safety, and five tackles against the 49ers. Rivera said Irvin was “tremendous.” He saw significantly more playing time than rookie Brian Burns, who is dealing with a wrist injury and has been playing with a protective club on his hand.
Panthers’ front seven. The Panthers allowed the 49ers to rush for 232 yards and four touchdowns, three of those scores coming on runs of 20-plus yards. Carolina really struggled with the Niners’ misdirection plays.
“I think that the more you move on offense, the more it gives the defense to look at,” Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “We do a good job every week of practicing and preparing and the coaches do a good job of giving us looks. We just have to do a better job of seeing it, talking about it and reacting during the game.”
Panthers wide receiver Jarius Moore injured his knee against the 49ers, though he did return to the game. But it is something to monitor moving forward. Panthers left tackle Greg Little, the team’s second-round draft pick, remains in the concussion protocol.
The Panthers were 2 of 13 on third-down conversions against the 49ers. It’s an area that continues to be an area of concern for the offense.
The Panthers suffered a similar blowout loss (52-21) last year to the Steelers after starting the season 6-2. That defeat seemed to affect the team’s confidence and proved to be a turning point in the season, as the Panthers lost seven straight games and missed the playoffs.
“We need to hold ourselves accountable,” offensive guard Greg Van Roten said. “We need to be very honest with the film, we need to make the corrections that are necessary and we need to re-focus. At the end of the day, this is one loss, but it can turn into two and it can turn into three like it did last year.”