Sam Darnold gets the hook as Panthers' promising start vaporizes

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The good feelings about Sam Darnold's arrival in Charlotte feel a long, long away now. 

Carolina lost its fourth straight game, falling 25-3 to the Giants in a game that was even uglier than it looked. Darnold, who joined Carolina after an erratic run with the Jets, got the hook in the start of the fourth quarter after failing to lead the Panthers into the end zone Sunday. Darnold's totals through the first three quarters of the game: 111 yards and an interception, 16 completions on 25 attempts. He suffered through six three-and-out drives, threw that crucial interception deep in Giants territory and cost Carolina a safety when he intentionally grounded the ball while in his own end zone.  

The Panthers started the season with three straight wins, but then dropped the next three games and were down 15-3 when head coach Matt Rhule pulled Darnold. Backup P.J. Walker took over for Darnold, and had little success, completing only three of his 14 passes for 33 yards. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 24: Sam Darnold #14 of the Carolina Panthers is sacked by Jabrill Peppers #21 of the New York Giants during the first half in the game at MetLife Stadium on October 24, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Carolina's Sam Darnold is sacked by New York's Jabrill Peppers in the first half Sunday. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

After the game, Rhule indicated that this was a temporary cooldown for Darnold. Sunday nonetheless marked a setback as the Panthers tried to establish a game not dependent on the still-absent Christian McCaffrey. 

“Obviously, I pulled Sam in the game,” Rhule said. “Just felt like we needed some sort of a spark. Not that anything was necessarily him, I think it’s all of them. Hoping P.J. would go out there and make a run or do something to kind of get us going. Sam will be our quarterback next week. He’ll be our quarterback moving forward.”

Carolina has games ahead against Atlanta, New England, Arizona and Washington, and if the Panthers struggle against that largely winnable slate, Darnold is going to have to work a lot harder to hold onto his job, something that Rhule hinted at after the game.

“Sam’s got to take care of the football,” he said. “And Sam’s got to throw on time and if it’s not there, find the check-downs. We can’t be driving, with a chance to take the lead, and throw interceptions. His sense of urgency this week, I expect to be heightened.”

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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