Panthers drop to 0-4 after offense struggles against Vikings

Panthers quarterback Bryce Young is sacked by Vikings safety Harrison Smith during Minnesota’s 21-13 win Sunday in Charlotte. (Jacob Kupferman / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — The Carolina Panthers fell to 0-4 on the season with a 21-13 loss to the previously winless Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.

The Panthers were able to hold quarterback Kirk Cousins in check and had the longest interception return for a touchdown in team history — a 99-yarder by Sam Franklin — but the offense wasn’t able to produce enough points to complement the team’s defensive performance.

Carolina managed just six points on offense, three of them coming on a 56-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro, the longest in his career and third-longest in team history.

Quarterback Bryce Young was sacked five times, all in the second half. He fumbled on one sack, and Minnesota’s DJ Wonnum returned it 51 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Two other sacks came on third down, and the final two came inside the two-minute warning as Young was trying to lead a potential game-tying drive. He was sacked by Harrison Smith, the blitzing safety’s third of the game, on fourth down to end Carolina’s comeback bid.

“They didn’t really do anything we didn’t practice against and prepare for,” Panthers coach Frank Reich said of the Vikings’ blitzing. “We knew coming in they might get us once or twice. The big difference was we didn’t get them enough. We have to make them pay.”

Instead, Young focused on short passes, leading to long Carolina drives that eventually ended short of the end zone. He completed 25 of 32 passes, including a team-record 18 in a row, but only threw for 204 yards in the game.

Reich said that the short passes were in part due to Minnesota’s blitzing, but the team had hoped to try more deep balls.

“You’ve got to have a mix,” he said. “We had a few shots called that we had to check out of for one reason or another. We had a penalty (for illegal contact on the defense) called on the one deep shot we took. It’s harder to do, but that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Young, who dropped to 0-3 in the NFL and returned to the field after missing last week’s game with an injury, admitted to being frustrated with his performance and allowing it to show at times on the sideline.

“There was definitely stuff I want back,” he said. “That emotion comes out. I’ve got to go to the next play. I was mad at myself for stuff, but I’ve got to have short-term memory, turn the page and move on.”

Reich had mixed feelings about his quarterback’s day.

“His accuracy was good,” he said. “I thought he saw a lot of things well and moved in the pocket well. Bryce is progressing. He’s getting better. I’m excited about that. But no one is satisfied with progress and not results. We want progress, but at the end of the day, we’re in the results business.”