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Matt Rhule vows skidding Carolina Panthers will commit to run; Joe Brady to remain playcaller

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule isn’t taking the offensive playcalling from coordinator Joe Brady, but he promised a “vastly” different look on Sunday when the Panthers face the New York Giants.

“We’re not going to line up and throw it 40 times a game and think that’s going to win for us,” Rhule said on Monday. “It hasn’t. … So we’re going to redefine who we are, and we’re going to run the football and we’re going to protect our quarterback and we’re not going to turn the ball over anymore.

“That’s the only way we’re going to win.”

The Panthers (3-3) have lost three straight since a 3-0 start. They averaged 31 rushes the first three games compared to 25.6 the past three.

They had only 23 rushes in Sunday’s 34-28 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

That running back Christian McCaffrey has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury and is out at least the next two after going on injured reserve has been a factor. Many of the short passes that McCaffrey turned into big plays were like runs.

Without McCaffrey, teams have manned-up wide receivers DJ Moore and Robby Anderson and rushed five. That’s put more pressure on quarterback Sam Darnold, who has thrown six interceptions the past three games after throwing only one the first three.

The Panthers have eight total turnovers during their losing streak, compared to two the first three games. Rhule noted all eight came on passing plays.

“If you call 16, 18, 19, 24, 25 runs, you better have an elite passing game,” Rhule said. “And right now that’s not our strength.”

Rhule said the “shame” of Sunday’s loss was the Panthers were running well with rookie back Chuba Hubbard, who had 61 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

“We just have not been committed enough to running it,” Rhule said. “And that’s going to change. I can tell you right now.”

The league average for designed rush percentage this season is 37.5. Carolina ranks 26th the past three games at 33.7, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Rhule said he came into Sunday’s game wanting to run 33 times and he’d like to average that moving forward. He didn’t blame Brady for the lack of balance.

However, Brady came to Carolina from LSU after helping quarterback Joe Burrow win the Heisman Trophy with 60 touchdown passes in 2019. The run game accounted for 34.1% of the offense as the Tigers went undefeated and won the national title.

“Me and Joe are great,” Rhule said. “We had a lot of plays [Sunday] he called runs that were killed with a pass with a safety blitz. We’re just going to have to find ways of running the football in those situations.”

The Panthers also were penalized offensively for calling consecutive timeouts because players either weren’t lined up right or were confused by the play call. Rhule called them “egregiously poor plays

Much of Rhule’s emphasis on the running game has to do with protecting Darnold, who has been sacked 12 times the past three games without McCaffrey after being taken down three times in the first two games.

Darnold’s Total QBR without McCaffrey dropped from 66 to 32.

Rhule believes more runs and more balance will change that.

“Sam’s not playing well enough,” Rhule said. “Let’s start there.”

But Rhule added some of that falls on the staff for not doing a better job of coaching and on players for not performing. Carolina had six dropped passes on Sunday.

“We need to fix ourselves first,” Rhule said. “We don’t need to panic. We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We’re 3-3 and we’ve got to stop turning the football over and stop the run on defense.

“We’re going to fix that this week.”

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Chargers’ Michael Davis makes wild interception in back-and-forth game with Bengals

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CINCINNATI — A potential touchdown turned into a big turnover for the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw a deep ball to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase down the sideline with Chargers cornerback Michael Davis trailing behind Chase.

From there, it all went south for Cincinnati. Chase bobbled the pass and deflected it behind him, which allowed Davis to not only make up the distance between them but also give him a chance at an interception.

When the two players went to the ground to pluck the ball out of the air, Davis was the one holding it. He gave the Chargers their second turnover in as many defensive drives and compounded Cincinnati’s woes in a game with playoff implications.

For Chase it was the sixth drop of the season and the second that resulted in an interception, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Things got worse from there for the Bengals. The Chargers turned the turnover into points when quarterback Justin Herbert found Keenan Allen for a 7-yard touchdown pass, giving Los Angeles a 16-0 lead with 1:34 left in the first quarter.

The Chargers extended their lead to 24-0 after a trick play in which Allen found Herbert for 2-point conversion.

Turnovers on three straight possesions by the Chargers allowed the Bengals to claw back to within 24-22 when Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon scored midway through the third quarter.

But a fumble by Mixon at the start of the fourth quarter allowed the Chargers to extend their lead again. It was the sixth turnover of the game.



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Los Angeles Chargers lose star DE Joey Bosa in second half with potential head injury

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Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, long considered the best defender on the team, left the game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.

Bosa was being evaluated for a head injury he suffered in the second half as the Chargers attempted to hold off a Bengals’ rally.

Bosa has battled injuries through much of his career, and usually plays through them. This one was a different story, and the Chargers defense struggled in the third quarter without him.

This season, the 6-foot-6, 280-pound Bosa has 36 solo tackles and 19 assists to go along with 7.5 sacks. In his absence, Kyler Fackrel took over. No further word on Bosa was immediately available.

The Chargers, at one point up 24-0 over the Bengals, saw their lead shrink to 24-22 in the third.

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Los Angeles Rams RB Darrell Henderson, WR Odell Beckham Jr. active vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

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The Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr. is active for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A source had told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the team was not optimistic about him being able to play but he would test out his injured thigh before Sunday’s game before it made a decision.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., also is active. Like Henderson, he was listed as questionable. Beckham has a hip injury.

Running back James Robinson is active for the Jaguars. He had been listed as questionable due to heel and knee injuries. Robinson has been hobbled for weeks with the injuries but was feeling better Saturday.

Henderson, the Rams’ top running back, has rushed for 648 yards and five touchdowns this season.

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