CINCINNATI — One week ago, the Carolina Panthers were on the verge of taking the NFC South lead and seemed to not be one of the NFL's worst teams.
On Sunday, though, the Panthers snapped back to reality and were mauled in a 42-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Panthers offense and defense seemingly decided to take the first half off and were blanked 35-0 at halftime. Carolina only managed to pick up one first down in the first two quarters.
During that same period, the Bengals were relentless and completely undid whatever issues plagued them in last week's loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Joe Mixon had four touchdowns in the first half alone, scoring three on the ground and one in the air. Joe Burrow added a touchdown run to create an insurmountable lead for the Bengals.
As hinted, the Panthers' offense was completely ineffective in the early going. PJ Walker finished the first half 3 of 10 for just nine yards and threw two interceptions.
Head coach Steve Wilks implemented a change at halftime, placing Baker Mayfield back under center for the Panthers.
Coming into Sunday's game, Mayfield held a 6-1 record against the Bengals during his time with the Browns. Some of his best career performances have come against Cincinnati, so perhaps Wilks thought he knew a thing or two about beating the reigning AFC champions.
Mayfield came in and led the Panthers to their first scoring drive of the day, an eight-play drive capped off with an eight-yard Tommy Tremble touchdown reception from Mayfield on 4th & Goal. The drive was set up by a 66-yard kickoff return from Raheem Blackshear.
But just as Panthers fans might have felt the team was about to pull of the greatest comeback in NFL history, the Bengals marched downfield with another long touchdown drive completed with yet another Mixon touchdown run.
A 21-yard Terrance Marshall Jr. touchdown reception and a 2-yard Blackshear run would make the margin a little tighter but in the end, the Panthers lost another game and are now 2-7, last in the NFC South.
Surprisingly, Mayfield put up one of his best performances of the year. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Mayfield was pulled from his starting role after an abysmal start to the season preceded an injury in a Week 5 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Walker exceeded expectations during Mayfield's absence and was named the starter after the Panthers pulled off an upset 21-3 win over the Buccaneers in Week 7.
However, the two quarterbacks' performances in Week 9 could create additional confusion for coaches on who the starter should be moving forward.
This story will be updated.
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