Panthers need better special teams play

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Carolina's special teams have been far from special this year -- and it has cost the Panthers.

Carolina's special teams have been far from special this year -- and it has cost the Panthers.

The special teams unit has had problems in almost every phase since giving up a game-winning punt return for a touchdown to rookie Patrick Peterson in a season-opening loss on the road to Arizona. The Panthers also gave up another punt return for a touchdown to Chicago's Devin Hester a few weeks later, leading to another close loss.

And last week, kicker Olindo Mare missed a potential game-tying field with 26 seconds left in the team's 24-21 loss to Minnesota sending the team to 2-6. So you can argue special teams have played a big role in three losses.

It's not been a good year for coordinator Brian Murphy's gang in other spots either.

Carolina's returns teams have been unproductive as well. The Panthers are 29th in kickoff and punt return average.

Armanti Edwards ranks 28th in punt returns. Rookie Kealoha Pilares ranks 29th in kickoff return average, five spots behind Mike Goodson, who has been in Ron Rivera's doghouse for fumbling and hasn't played in three weeks.

Coach Ron Rivera believes the Panthers have plenty of potential in the return game, but pointed out the lack of production isn't their fault.

"The other thing is those guys have to block," Rivera said. "We're not always doing the job we need to. Every now and then the return guy has to make one guy miss. We've got to continue to work it."

On top of all of that, punter Jason Baker ranks 33rd in net punting average.

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