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Time has come for the Panthers to make changes to staff, starting lineup following 1-8 start

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Disappointed. Frustrated. Embarrassed.

Those are the words coaches and players are using to describe the Carolina Panthers’ season.

Fans are even more fed up.

One fan podcast in the Carolinas is even calling for a “March on Mint” — the street where the team’s headquarters are located — this Sunday demanding changes to the organization after the team fell to 1-8 following yet another lackluster performance in a 16-13 loss to the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.

It's not just about this year.

The Panthers are now 30-61 since David Tepper, the NFL’s second-wealthiest owner, purchased the franchise in 2018. Carolina has not been to the playoffs since 2017, and the aura surrounding the organization is a mixture of anger and apathy.

Panthers head coach Frank Reich said Monday he isn't considering any changes to his staff, but he wouldn't rule out taking back control of offensive play calling after giving it to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown three weeks ago. The Panthers have scored just two offensive touchdowns under Brown in three games.

The time has come for change.

Things in Carolina can't get much worse, at least for the offense.

Despite trading up to acquire the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in Bryce Young, Carolina entered the game 28th in the league in total offense and 27th in scoring. Instead of showing signs of improvement, the Panthers are trending in the wrong direction the last two weeks with no obvious solutions in sight.

Young is 1-7 as a starter, and the Panthers have scored 17 points or less in six of his eight starts.

“We’re all frustrated,” said Young, summing up the team's situation. “Frustrating situation to be in. It’s not who we are, who we want to be. We are what we put on tape, we are what we put on the field, and we have to be better. ... We have to be better. I have to be better first and foremost. I have to be a lot better.”

It's not all on Young.

He needs help.

The rookie needs help from his coaches, who have failed him with unimaginative play designs that have often times left him running for cover without any checkdown options. He needs help from the offensive line, which can't seem to protect him. He needs help from his wide receivers not named Adam Thielen, who regularly fail to create separation. And he needs help from a running game that has been all but non-existent.

But most of all he needs help from general manager Scott Fitterer, whose job could be in danger after failing to put the right pieces around the team's franchise quarterback.

WHAT’S WORKING

Carolina's defense actually played pretty well against the Bears despite being devastated by injuries and playing without outside linebacker Brian Burns, inside linebacker Shaq Thompson and cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and C.J. Henderson. They held the Bears out of the end zone until the third quarter when ex-Panthers RB D'Onta Foreman scored on a 4-yard run. They still held the Bears to under 300 yards. But it should be noted that effort came against a team playing without starting QB Justin Fields and RB Khalil Herbert.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The offensive line continues to struggle, allowing three more sacks by the Bears, which Reich called “too many.” Carolina QBs have now been sacked 32 times this season, tied for third-most allowed in the league. This was an offensive line that excelled at run blocking last season, but is proving to be less adept at pass protection.

STOCK UP

Punt returner Ihmir Smith-Marsette provided the only highlight against the Bears when he returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown. It was his first career punt return for a touchdown.

STOCK (WAY) DOWN

Miles Sanders signed the biggest contract of any running back on the free agent market this past summer when he got a four-year, $25.4 million deal. The Panthers are getting absolutely no return on their investment. Sanders is a complete non-factor in the offense and had two carries for minus-5 yards against the Bears.

INJURIES

The Panthers came out of the game without any new injuries. They are hoping to get Burns and Henderson back from concussions in time for their next game against Dallas. It's possible that Horn, who has been out with a hamstring injury since Week 1, might finally return.

KEY NUMBERS

43 — Yards rushing by the Panthers against the Bears.

NEXT STEPS

The Panthers have a few extra days to prepare for their Nov. 19 game against Dallas. On paper that will be a home game for Carolina. But given the apathy and complete disgust engulfing the fanbase, expect Carolina's PSL owners to begin selling their tickets to Cowboys fans. By game time, this could be a 80-20 crowd in favor of the Cowboys at Bank of America Stadium.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl