Sam Darnold was sent to the Panthers bench to make way for PJ Walker

Sam Darnold was sent to the Panthers bench to make way for PJ Walker

Sam Darnold was pulled from the field in the fourth quarter of a 25-3 loss to the Giants

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold was sent to the bench early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 25-3 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

“I felt like we needed some spark,” coach Matt Rhule said of the quarterback change. “Sam will be our quarterback next week. He will be our quarterback going forward.”

The decision was made four days after Rhule said he had “bought” Darnold as his quarterback., when asked about the chances of Carolina pursuing a trade for Deshaun watson from Houston.

“I think Sam is going to be a great quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, and I haven’t worked with anyone else,” Rhule said on a conference call Thursday. “He is my focus, and I hope he plays his best football in the future. I’m not looking anywhere else.”

Rhule turned to backup PJ Walker with 12:41 remaining on Sunday and Carolina trailing 15-3. Darnold received an intentional penalty from the end zone in the first half that resulted in a safety. He also had an interception near the New York goal line on a poorly thrown ball. It was the seventh in the last four games, after throwing just three in Carolina’s 3-0 start. Sunday’s loss left the Panthers at 3-4.

“Pitch on time, catch the wide receiver, be patient, protect the ball, don’t lose your back foot,” Rhule said of what has been different at Darnold the past four games.

“He had options in a third and ten, where there were open players. We are predetermining the thinking. Again, I can understand young quarterbacks going through that. Obviously, we are not training Sam well enough.”

“It’s not about Sam. We needed more from the running game. We needed some explosive plays. We needed great catches.”

Darnold was nine of 18 for 52 yards and the interception against standard pressure., according to research from ESPN Stats & Information. He entered the game completing 61% on those plays, second-worst among qualified quarterbacks.

“I’ve been registered,” Rhule said. “Quarterbacks go through ups and downs. Sam has to take care of the football. Sam has to pitch on time. If he’s not there, he has to get a check. We can’t drive with the opportunity to take the lead and throw an interception.

“I hope your sense of urgency heightens this week.”

Sunday’s game was Darnold’s first game at MetLife Stadium after he spent the first three seasons of his NFL career with the New York Jets., who traded him to the Panthers for this season. He was 8-11 at MetLife with the Jets.

Rhule said he never wants to embarrass any player, but simply felt that Darnold had reached the “tipping point” where a change was needed.

When asked if he was embarrassed, Darnold said, “When you get to that point, when you get pushed, I just internalize it. Honestly, it’s more of those situations where it is what it is. Coach thought PJ, at the time, it would provide a spark. “

Walker finished 3 of 14 for 33 yards and also had a run for 13 yards during his time in the game..

Rhule doesn’t expect Sunday’s decision on Darnold to change the way the Panthers approach the November 2 trade deadline, in terms of looking for another quarterback.

“I can’t look to the future, but I don’t think I will,” he said. “Now everyone is disappointed. There are emotions flying around. You saw the game. It was not good in many ways.”

The Panthers, according to league sources, were interested in Watson before the quarterback’s legal troubles.. He has 22 active lawsuits filed against him with allegations of sexual assault or sexually inappropriate behavior during massage sessions.

League sources said the Panthers are not chasing Watson, and that the Texans are asking for at least three first-round picks. by former Clemson star.

Rhule reiterated that his focus is preparing Darnold for Atlanta next week.

“We are not winning right now,” he said. “He’s going to take us all. He just needs a lot of help from a lot of guys right now and he’s not getting it. I also see the good times. We’re going to keep training him.”

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