Panthers' defense still having problems

Matt Forte (Getty Images)

The Panthers have some huge problems to fix as they open division play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

The Panthers have some huge problems to fix as they open division play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

The Panthers' offense, which was last in the league a year ago, is no longer the problem.

They put up 543 yards and 29 points on Sunday.

It's the other two phases of the game that are killing the Panthers, who fell to 1-3 on Sunday.

The Panthers allowed Bears running back Matt Forte to run through gaping holes en route to a career-high 205 yards as the Bears piled up 224 yards on the ground, their most in 23 years. That's the same Bears team that came into the game ranked 31st in the league in rushing and only got two yards rushing from Forte the week before against Green Bay.

And the special teams units have some serious issues, too.

For the second time this season, the Panthers allowed a punt return for a touchdown after making a dubious decision to kick to Devin Hester, now the NFL's all-time leader in that category with 11 for his career.

Hester's 69-yard punt return came after Hester returned a kickoff 73 yards to set up another touchdown earlier in the second quarter.

To make matters worse, kicker Olindo Mare had a 34-yard field goal blocked by old nemesis Julius Peppers and also missed short on a 52-yard field goal attempt into a slight wind.

Even Hester said he was "shocked" when Jason Baker's low knuckling punt came his way.

"Coming from coach (Ron) Rivera, a guy I've been around and has seen me grow as a player, it was a shock," Hester said.

"The unfortunate thing is we were trying to limit these opportunities for Devin Hester and we didn't do a good enough job," Rivera said. "We have to get better at that. This falls on me, first and foremost, as the head coach. We had a plan. We felt good about the plan and unfortunately we didn't execute it the way we needed to."

On defense, clearly the Panthers missed linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis.

"When you miss tackles, they block people, and we didn't play our techniques the way we are supposed to, it's disappointing," Rivera said.

"We will obviously watch tape and evaluate it, but it was obvious based on their first series of the game they were making a concerted effort to run the football. We didn't respond in time."

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