Donte Jackson is known for being a talker between the lines but he decided to bring that energy to the locker room in Week 14.
"First of all, it was two bad calls. Two horrible calls. Two calls that we didn't call in those situations all week at practice," Jackson said, per Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer.
It's always telling when a player openly criticizes his coaching staff, but Jackson's comments are even more noteworthy considering that this was the Panthers' first game with Perry Fewell at the helm. The former defensive backs coach was named the interim coach on Dec. 3 after Carolina bid farewell to head coach and defensive play-caller Ron Rivera after nine seasons.
The first TD play in question came on a 15-yard Matt Ryan pass to receiver Calvin Ridley in the first quarter. Jackson was covering Ridley but left him to jump on tight end Austin Hooper's route, leaving Ridley open and the Panthers helpless to stop him. Bad defensive communication, to say the least.
The second came midway through the third from the ATL 7 when Ryan found rookie wideout Olamide Zaccheaus on a 93-yard catch-and-run score that put Atlanta up 17 and dealt a major blow to the struggling Panthers secondary. Jackson was in coverage on that play but got beat and then failed to tackle Zacchaeus, who scored his first career TD. Jackson offered his take on what went wrong.
"Backed up, third-and-8], called an 'Engage 8' blitz, we sent everybody," Jackson said, per the Charlotte Observer. "To leave the corners out there on an island by (themselves) ... Zero coverage. No help. Backed up. With a quarterback like that? I don't care if you're Champ Bailey or any of those cornerbacks on the [NFL] 100 list, that is a play that's hard to make for any guy. Especially with a quarterback like [Matt Ryan."
In response to whether seeing the seldom-used Zaccheaus, who was playing in only his second game, on the field caused the slip-up, Jackson later added that he was "familiar with everybody on that roster" and that, based on the play call, he was "beat from the start."
It'll be interesting to see how Carolina opts to handle the passionate Jackson in the wake of his comments. He did acknowledge that he should've made the play and that there's no excuses but that likely won't save him from the discipline that is likely to come his way in the coming days.