CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera only needed one word to describe the way his defense tackled in Sunday’s 31-21 loss to New Orleans.
“Bad,” he deadpanned on Monday. “There’s no other word for it.”
Rivera didn’t get any argument from defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who counted a season-high 12-plus missed tackles in a game that left the Panthers (8-4) a game behind the Saints (9-3) in the NFC South.
“Which is extremely too many,” said Wilks, whose unit entered the game third in the NFL in rush defense. “That’s something that is not acceptable, and something we will correct.”
The missed tackles started on the game’s first series. New Orleans, faced with fourth-and-goal from the 2, called a pitch right to rookie running back Alvin Kamara.
Kamara had one blocker out front and four Carolina defenders in pursuit. None of the Panthers made the play. Outside linebacker Shaq Thompson flung his body at the former Tennessee star around the 1-yard line and completely missed.
“I don’t think he intended to miss the tackle,” Wilks said. “He just needs to wrap up.”
Much of the problem started with gap control.
“You’ve got to continue to take the grass. In other words, don’t stop your feet,” Wilks said. “You saw a lot of guys stopping their feet and creating separation. You can’t do that with guys that are very shifty out in space. We’ve just got to do a much better job of taking the grass, understanding where help is coming from, making sure we’re on the right side and forcing it back to our other defenders.”
Rivera explained that the Panthers allowed the gap to become too wide at times, leaving other defenders in the position of having to attempt arm tackles versus attacking with their shoulders.
Few plays hurt the Panthers more than a 72-yard run by Mark Ingram early in the second quarter. Ingram ran untouched through a huge hole in the middle of one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL.
The Saints finished with 148 yards rushing after running for 149 yards against Carolina in a Week 3 34-13 victory over the Panthers.
Wilks took full responsibility for the lack of execution of his players and vowed to have it corrected for Sunday’s game against Minnesota (10-2).
The Vikings have the league’s No. 6 rushing offense, averaging 122.8 yards a game.
“When you see so many guys across the board missing tackles, not just one guy … not saying we weren’t prepared, but evidently we need to have more consistency and most important details,” Wilks said. “Those things start with me.”