I went back and watched every offensive play from the Carolina game to try and figure out why we looked so bad. It was the TV copy, so it isn't the best way to judge things, but we also ran almost every play within five yards of the line of scrimmage, so it actually isn't bad in our case.
Here's what I saw. Out of 59 plays I watched (I didn't count the last drive), I assigned the following categories - run plays, good plays by Hurts, bad plays by Hurts/incompletions, bad oline plays, screen passes and bad wr/te plays. Some plays had multiple faults, and I will discuss those in more detail. Here's the breakdown.
Run plays - 13
Hurts good plays - 16
Bad Hurts plays/incompletions - 6
Bad oline play - 11
screen passes - 7
Drops/bad wr/te plays - 6
Diving into it a little more, here's what I saw. I had Hurts for 16 good plays that didn't include his runs. There were some really nice throws, including the two point conversion and the throw to Goedert to set up the final TD. But most of the throws were somewhat average, the type any qb can make on Sunday. I will note one play that was special which was largely ignored. On a third down and 9, he was pressured and had to scramble, and he managed to hit Goedert for a first down. The play was called back due to a hold on Mailata (so it is included in the bad oline section) and the TV announcers mistakenly called it an incompletion. But the pass was complete, or else the penalty would have been declined. It was a pretty special play that fell by the wayside, but it shows that he can work some magic.
Of his good plays, only three were checkdowns to running backs, so it's nice to see him working down the field to WRs and TEs. A positive sign to me was the two minute drill at the end of the first half and the nice ball to Goedert on the final TD drive. When he had to throw it downfield, he was able to do so. You could argue that the Panthers were playing soft on the final drive of the first half, but that's the type of coverage Hurts faces all the time due to his ability to run, plus defenses focusing on stopping screens/RPOs.
As far as the bad plays, the most obvious one was the interception, which was just a bad play. Shake it off. One was a max protect scheme with only two routes, and he threw it away. I don't know if he had anyone open from the TV copy, but based on what I saw from the Panthers they weren't in bad shape on defense. There were two throws to tight ends that went incomplete that were well defended. And there was a play where he almost got Gainwell decapitated in which I thought he just should have run. The other one was the free play that he threw out of bounds, which was a boneheaded play that probably didn't impact the game, but it still goes in the bad category.
The screen passes speak for themselves. He made the throws, they just weren't working. I put this on the coaches.
The TE/WR mistakes also speak for themselves. The only controversial one is the Ertz drop on fourth down, which wasn't a great throw, so it could be put on Hurts. But, Ertz has to make that catch. I put Ward's PI penalty in this category as well.
The oline category was the most interesting to me. There were three plays where the oline mistakes were super obvious - the two sacks and the play where his arm was hit as he threw. There was another play where Mailata blew the play call and was run blocking ten yards downfield while everyone else was pass blocking. Perhaps the most pivotal play was one where the team had dialed up a great play call and Watkins was wide open deep, but Hurts had to run for his life because a guard missed a block and a DT was free. In fact, we really struggled with pressure up the middle, and it is a concern heading into a game with a team that has absolute soul crushers at DT.
I only dinged the oline four times in the first half, and one of those was for the bad snap on the safety, which may have been a Hurts mistake as well. And another was where a lineman was left unblocked, so I would put that more on the play call than a mistake by the line. So seven of the bad plays were in the second half. And those seven plays (which included a false start) all occurred in a span of 17 plays, which started with the back-to-back sacks. So I think they were rattled but then settled down.
Overall, you could see why the team struggled on offense. The screens were useless. Mistakes were made by every position group. We didn't run the ball, even though I had us at 10 positive running plays (more than three yards) versus only three for less than that. By my count, we had 26 positive plays and 33 bad ones, which isn't a great ratio. But very few were actually the fault of the qb. He ran the offense that was given to him with few mistakes. I heard an analyst state that he left a lot of plays on the field, but I didn't see it. The interception was a huge miss. But other than that? The plays that were missed were largely on other factors. To me, the bigger issue is that we didn't put more on his shoulders.
My biggest issue is that we seem to be running an offense that avoids putting Hurts in a position to really play qb, which is making it easy for teams with a good defense to defend us.
I am hoping we see an adjustment against the Buccaneers. If we try the same gameplan we used against the Panthers, we are going to be dead in the water. At some point, the team is going to have to trust Hurts to drop back, scan the field and throw the ball. Running screen passes and RPOs over and over again just isn't going to work if the other team expects you to constantly run screen passes and RPOs, as we saw on Sunday.