Panthers fall to Cardinals, 26-16

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers went to great lengths to defend.

On offense, they struggled again.

The Panthers’ 26-16 loss to the Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday was a poor showing for an offense that hasn’t looked particularly cohesive in its first three games.

It was a rough day from start to finish for quarterback Baker Mayfield, who intercepted twice and managed 197 passing yards.

The Panthers continued to underperform in the third offense, going just 2-for-10 from the field and creating a downline problem for an already exhausted defense.

Mayfield’s first four games have been rough overall, with some moments of clarity but no consistent theme. He made several consecutive passes to DJ Moore (more involved, which helped) and found Christian McCaffrey after several passes, including a touchdown. But again, Mayfield was knocked down at the line of scrimmage.

While they were able to rely on McCaffrey over the past few weeks (he had two straight 100-yard rushing games), he only had eight carries (27 yards) on the day.

It’s a chicken-and-egg problem because they can’t build the run until they can extend the drive, and the passing game can’t do that right now.

— Once again, linebacker Frankie Luu was all over the place, and he had the biggest score of the day.

He continued his stellar performance with a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Last week, he made his first turnover of the season by knocking out the Marquis of Haynes. Returning for touchdowns, sparked an outburst of three turnovers that ended up beating the Saints.

On Sunday, there was no follow-up.

Luvu played very well, but his frustration started to show late in the game, when he was flagged as needlessly rough for throwing running back James Conner to the ground.

— The Panthers played most of the game without safety, and Jeremy Chinn left early with a hamstring injury and didn’t return.

They played mash-up defenses most of the time after that, with Sean Chandler filling in for Keen in scoring, but using other personnel groupings to make up for dynamic safety.

Without knowing specific reports, it’s hard to pinpoint any blame at this point, but Chandler trailed tight end Zach Ertz in the third quarter.

The Panthers also don’t have Laviska Chenault Jr. He left the game in the second half with a hamstring injury.

— Eddie Pinheiro completed a 54-yard field goal before halftime, keeping the new kicker perfect so far this season.

He entered the game on 7-for-7 shooting after replacing the injured Zane Gonzalez before the regular season.

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