Why did the Panthers bench Sam Darnold? Matt Rhule’s search for ‘spark’ vs. Giants leads to PJ Walker takeover

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Sam Darnold started the Panthers’ Week 7 game against the Giants. He didn’t finish it.

The Panthers benched Darnold in the early stages of the fourth quarter. Carolina was trailing 15-3 at the time that Darnold was pulled. Backup PJ Walker came into the game to replace him.

Darnold wasn’t reported to have suffered an injury at the time of his benching. Thus, it was assumed that his benching was performance-related.

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Why did the Panthers bench Sam Darnold?

Panthers coach Matt Rhule explained to reporters that he pulled Darnold to try to “spark” his team amid their poor performance in a 25-3 loss to the Giants.

“Obviously I pulled Sam at the end of the game. Just felt like we needed some sort of spark,” Rhule said. “Not that anything was necessarily him. I think it’s all of them.”

Darnold struggled immensely against the Giants’ defense. He completed 16 of 25 passes but totaled just 111 passing yards, good for an average of 4.4 yards per attempt. He didn’t record a touchdown, was sacked three times and threw an ugly interception.

This was the latest in a string of poor games for Darnold. In his previous three games, he had completed just 54.7 percent of his passes for 685 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions. The Panthers lost all three of those games and extended their losing streak to four against the Giants on Sunday.

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Darnold spoke about being “embarrassed” by his performance and benching after the game.

“When you get to that point, getting pulled, I just internalize it,’’ Darnold said, per ESPN’s David Newton. “Honestly, it’s more of those situations where it is what it is.”

It’s safe to say that Darnold’s return to Metlife Stadium did little to inspire hope that the Panthers can regain form. Perhaps that’s why rumors surrounding the Panthers and Deshaun Watson are starting to heat up ahead of the 2021 NFL trade deadline.

That said, it doesn’t sound like Carolina is planning on making any long-term changes. Rhule gave Darnold a vote of confidence during his postgame interview.

“Sam will be our quarterback next week,” Rhule said. “He’ll be our quarterback moving forward.”



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