Max Henson Staff Writer
CHARLOTTE – Panthers safety Sherrod Martin is likely headed to injured reserve after suffering damage to his right knee late in the first half Sunday against the Chiefs.
Martin, who has been splitting time at free safety with Haruki Nakamura, tore his medial collateral ligament and anterior cruciate ligament. Martin had 23 tackles and three passes defensed on the season.
“It’s very tough. The young man has played well,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “We’ve been able to refocus him on the things he’s needed to improve on, tackling being one of them. He has really done a nice job. His abilities seemed to start to show.”
Wide receiver Brandon LaFell was sidelined after spraining his foot early in the third quarter, and the team is awaiting results from Monday’s MRI.
Linebacker James Anderson, who was poked in the eye in the first quarter, had trouble seeing during the game and is still waiting for swelling to subside.
“He looked like Rocky coming out,” Rivera said. “He got a pretty good poke, and it swelled up on him where he couldn’t see. Hopefully the swelling will go down soon.”
ZONE TROUBLES: In the week leading up to Sunday’s game with the Chiefs, Rivera spoke about the importance of stopping Kansas City’s outside zone run.
The play – which the Chiefs utilized early and often – demands gap discipline and the Panthers struggled to remain assignment sound.
“As that zone starts to stretch, the tendency is as those creases start to get bigger, you get anxious and you try to cut inside and fall back before you have to,” Rivera explained. “Once you fall back from your crease to the next one, that allows for two people in one crease and you’ve just vacated yours trying to make a play.
“If you vacate yours and you don’t make the play, there is a huge, gaping hole. That happened to us a couple times yesterday.”
The Chiefs effectively established the run in the first half with 95 yards on the ground and finished the game with 158 yards rushing and one touchdown on 43 attempts.
FREQUENT FLAGS: The Panthers were penalized seven times for 45 yards, compared to Kansas City’s one penalty for five yards.
Three of those penalties came during the Chiefs’ 13-play and more than seven-minute touchdown drive to end the first half. Defensive end Charles Johnson was called for a neutral zone infraction, defensive tackle Andre Neblett for encroachment and defensive end Greg Hardy for illegal use of hands.
“We got hard counted twice. That’s disappointing,” Rivera said. “The Greg Hardy hands to the face is an aggressive (play). I looked at it; I don’t necessarily agree with (the call). He got his forearm underneath the guys’ facemask, but the referee interpreted it and threw the flag.
“There are some things that do happen that are a little bit out of your control.”