Rapid Reaction: Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 28-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium:

What it means: The Panthers (3-5-1) aren't out of the NFC South title chase, but losing this one at home with a game remaining at New Orleans (4-4) will be hard to overcome. The fact that Carolina has gone 1-5-1 over its past seven games and has a tough Monday night game at Philadelphia next week doesn't help. After that the schedule gets significantly easier, but the Panthers simply aren't playing winning football. The defense is showing signs of improvement, as one of the Saints' touchdowns came after a turnover at the Carolina 4. But the offense, with a makeshift line due to injuries, is way too inconsistent and quarterback Cam Newton simply couldn't carry that group when he had to.

Stock watch: Newton made big plays with his legs, including a 10-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 14-7 in the third quarter. But his passing was way off, particularly in the first half, when he didn't give the Panthers a chance to capitalize on two turnovers. Newton was 5-of-15 passing at halftime for 47 yards, missing high most of the night. He had Kelvin Benjamin over the middle with a chance to cut the lead to 21-14 in the fourth quarter and overthrew him. He also had a touchdown dropped by Benjamin, so Newton's 10-for-28, 151-yard night wasn't all his fault.

Wild card: To be fair, the offensive line didn't give Newton a lot of easy chances. It wasn't just undrafted rookie David Foucault -- making his first start at left tackle for the injured Byron Bell -- who had problems. Right tackle Nate Chandler, struggling with a groin injury, had issues as well. That never was more evident than a late second-quarter rush, when the New Orleans defensive ends bull-rushed both tackles into Newton for a 9-yard loss.

Wild card II: Left cornerback Antoine Cason was replaced by Melvin White at the end of the first half after being called for pass interference in the end zone, continuing his coverage struggles. White had been replaced by Josh Norman earlier in the season for poor coverage.

Game ball: Nobody really deserves one, but I'll go with running back Jonathan Stewart. He had eight rushes for 46 yards and has run effectively two weeks in a row (79 yards last week). Considering that he averaged 5.75 yards per carry, the Panthers might have thought about feeding him the ball more.

What's next: The Panthers travel to Philadelphia for a Monday night game against the Eagles.