Panthers coach Ron Rivera’s a minimalist.
Asked to describe the tackling of his team during Sunday’s loss to the Saints, he offered a blunt response.
“Bad,” Rivera said, via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. “There’s no other word for it.”
The difference in their effort was backed up by the stats. They entered the game ranked second in the league in total defense, but fell to sixth this week. That kind of drop is rare this time of year when the sample size is bigger. Then again, the Saints did rack up 400 yards on them (about 120 over their previous average).
Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks offered a more detailed approach, and promised an increased emphasis in practice tomorrow.
“When I say I take ‘full responsibility,’ when you see so many guys across the board missing tackles, not just one guy, I’m not saying we weren’t prepared but evidently we need to have a little bit more consistency in most important details,” Wilks said. “And that starts with me.
“I always say this: There are three reasons why a player is not doing what you want him to do. One, he doesn’t know. And if he doesn’t know, it’s our fault, my fault, as coaches. No. 2, it doesn’t mean anything to him. He doesn’t take pride in the details. And then No. 3, he can’t do it. Lack of talent, lost his step, not strong enough.
“Well, we all know it’s not No. 3. And it’s not No. 2 because guys don’t go out there to miss tackles. So therefore, I’m putting the focus back on myself and the coaches.”
Between some guys playing through injuries and the absence of defensive end Charles Johnson (who was suspended four games for a PED violation), it clearly wasn’t the defense they’re accustomed to seeing. That sets the stage for a hard-hitting affair Sunday with the Vikings, as they try to keep up in the chase for a playoff berth in a competitive NFC.