Frank Reich will have a sour taste in his mouth over the next 24 hours, if not longer.
The Panthers head coach led his team to a miserable 24-10 loss against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in his debut as the team’s primary offensive play-caller.
The squad coughed up three costly turnovers — which led to 17 points in a 14-point loss — and looked undisciplined throughout a brutal road affair that ultimately led to a season-opening divisional letdown.
“Everyone of us — players and coaches — should be hard on ourselves,” Reich said. “In the next 24 hours, it should not taste good. And we need to eat every bit of it. Otherwise, you don’t learn and get better from it.”
Reich watched as his rookie quarterback, Bryce Young, tossed a pair of near-identical interceptions to Falcons safety Jessie Bates. Those turnovers led to 10 points for Atlanta and set the stage for a disappointing outing by Young.
The first overall pick completed just 52.6% of his passes for 146 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Reich acknowledged after the game that Young throwing 38 passes in his debut wasn’t an ideal setup for the rookie.
Reich appreciated that Young seemed unfazed by the team’s turnovers that led to three scoring drives for Atlanta.
“Bryce is the last person I’m worried about,” Reich said. “How he’ll handle this — he’s got the maturity of someone way beyond his years. He’s a team-first person — he’ll be hard on himself, and each of us should be — that was kind of the message that we talked about in (the locker room).”
While Reich was searching for positives — in an otherwise forgettable first performance for the squad — he did acknowledge the impressive outing that pass rusher Brian Burns put together, especially early on in the contest. Burns — who is going through contract extension negotiations with Carolina’s front office — finished the game with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
“I thought Brian played like he practices,” Reich said. “And that’s hard. He plays with something to prove out at practice every day. Did he have a little something extra to prove today, given the situation? You’d have to ask him that question, but what I saw — that’s how he practices.”
The team’s nine penalties for 66 yards further sunk the squad. Reich understands that any sort of enthusiasm built off an individual performance means little in a two-score loss to a division foe.
This loss will bruise, but Reich hopes the Week 1 defeat won’t lead to a scar on his first campaign in Carolina.
“We’ve got to feel the disappointment and the hurt,” Reich said. “But not just feel it — we’ve got to figure out how to get better. And I believe we’ll do that as a team.”