Panthers Thoughts – Week One: Not The End Of The World
My thoughts on the Carolina Panthers week one loss
It’s easy to overreact after one week in the NFL. Last year after week one, the Eagles looked like every bit of the “Dream Team” that Vince Young labeled them and nobody would’ve considered the Giants a Super Bowl team. We all know what happened to both teams. You never want to start 0-1, but it’s not the end of the world if you do.
The Carolina Panthers are 0-1 thanks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s not the end of the world though.
First off, I have to give credit to the Bucs. They underwent a ton of coaching and roster changes after their terrible finish last season and, for one game at least, they’ve paid off.
That said, the Panthers looked dreadful in this game. Nothing went right in the first half. The offense couldn’t get it going as offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski kept trying to to run read plays that went no where and put pressure on the offense to convert long third down plays. Then, when the Bucs kept coming with the blitz, Chudzinski failed to draw up a screen play to counter it. The defense wasn’t much better though, giving up points on every single drive in the first half. I don’t think Josh Freeman is as bad as he showed last season, but the Panthers defense made him look like Eli Manning in the Super Bowl. They couldn’t get any pressure up front, and when they forced a third down, the secondary couldn’t step up and force a miss. There was also some stupid penalties on both sides of the ball that either improved the field position of the Bucs or stalled an offensive drive. Despite the brutal first half where almost nothing went right, the score was only 13-0 after two quarters.
The second half started perfectly. The defense forced a punt and Cam led the team downfield for a touchdown. Steve Smith had a big play that put the team into the red zone and Brandon LaFell stepped up with a touchdown after a beautiful pump fake by Cam. All of a sudden the game was 13-7 with the Panthers having the momentum.
The defense once again came up big and forced another Bucs punt in their following drive, giving Cam and the offense the ball back. New punt returner Joe Adams even helped out the offense by fielding the punt and taking it into enemy territory. It looked like the Panthers were going to turn this game around, start rolling on both sides of the ball, and beat an inferior team.
Unfortunately “Untimely Turnover Cam” reared his ugly head. With the good field position and a chance to get at least three points, Cam threw into triple coverage, got a ball tipped into the air, and picked off. Pass interference could’ve been called on the play, but it wasn’t an obvious call and I’m hard pressed to blame the refs for not calling it. It was a throw that never should’ve been made and it cost the Panthers a chance at cutting into, or even taking, the lead.
The defense bailed Cam out though, giving up no points after the turnover. The next Panthers drive resulted in another interception as Cam didn’t see the over the top help and threw the ball too far inside. The interception may not have been the worst play of the drive though, as the play before, Cam broke off a 14 yard run and a first down that was called back due to holding. That put the Panthers in a 3rd and 12 situation, which led to Cam taking a shot downfield and throwing the pick.
At the end of three quarters, the game was only 13-7, but the Bucs had good field position. The defense once again stepped up though and forced another punt. The offense didn’t do anything when they got the ball back, but at least Cam threw to the right team. The special teams failed though as the Bucs blocked the punt and gave themselves great field position. The defense held the Bucs to a field, putting the game at 16-7 with 8 minutes to go.
Both teams traded possessions and all of a sudden it’s still 16-7 with 5 minutes left. After a couple of big plays, the Panthers got into the red zone again, but failed to find the end zone. Only coming away with a field goal wasn’t that big of a deal though because the team was going to need three points anyway. So the game was 16-10 with 2:46 left, still within winning reach.
If the defense could hold the Bucs to a three and out, there would still be two minutes left on the clock for the offense to drive for a game-winning touchdown. The defense reverted back to first half form though, giving up the first down and effectively securing the win for the Bucs.
A 16-10 week one loss to the Bucs isn’t the end of the world.
But this team looked eerily similar to last years team, possibly even worse. The run game was nonexistent for the Panthers. DeAngelo Williams carried the ball six times for minus one yards. That’s right, minus one. First off, six touches isn’t enough for Williams, especially when the majority of those rushes come of read options. When a read option works, it can be a big play. But when it fails, it ends up in a significant. With the Bucs bringing pressure on almost every single play, the read option never stood a chance. I thought the Panthers would run the ball more this season, but that clearly wasn’t the case today. Whatever happened to lining up in the i-formation, handing the ball to your halfback, and letting the fullback and lineman lead the way? I know it’s a passing league nowadays, but simple doesn’t mean ineffective. The team as a whole only had 10 rushing yards. I know Jonathan Stewart didn’t play, but when Williams is the 9th highest paid running back in the league, the team brought in Mike Tolbert, and Cam is known for his running ability, 10 yards is just unacceptable.
Cam threw for a lot of yards, but he once again turned the ball over at the worst possible time. The team had the momentum and field position to take the lead in the third, but he forced a ball into a sea of Bucs and they stole his treasure. I’m getting extremely worried that Cam is a “stats QB” right now. He’s going to throw for a lot of yards thanks to the system, but when the team needs a score, he always seems to fall short in leading them. Now we’re only 17 games into his NFL career, so the jury won’t be returning anytime soon, but I’m not liking this trend.
The defense wasn’t great in the first half and their failure to get off the field on 3rd down is still troubling, but they did hold the Bucs to two field goals instead of touchdowns and they kept an offense, that only put up 99 yards in the first half, in the game. When they needed the big stop at the end of the game to get the ball back in Cam’s hand though, just like they did so many times last year, they failed. The run defense, which was supposed to be improved thanks to the return of Ron Edwards and Jon Beason plus the addition of Luke Kuechly gave up 130 yeards. The secondary is still weak and is too content on keeping everything in front of them. They didn’t give up a big play and held Freeman to 138 yards passing, but because the Bucs were in a lot of 3rd and short situations and the defense didn’t want to give up anything big, Freeman had an easy time finding an open receiver underneath for an easy first down.
The special teams defense continue to be a problem as well. The block punt was a game-changer and Captain Munnerlyn took a terrible penalty when he ran into the receiver trying to make a fair catch. On the bright side, Joe Adams appears to be a very good return threat.
For all the things the Panthers did wrong though, they were still in the game and the biggest play wasn’t a Panthers screw up, but rather a great play by Bucs rookie safety Mark Barron. It looked like Cam was going to hit Louis Murphy in stride for a big gain on third down, but Barron dove at the last second to break up the pass. The play by Barron forced a Panthers punt, which turned out to be the blocked punt.
Half the teams in the league are 0-1 after week one and they’d be crazy to think that their season is over (unless they’re the Miami Dolphins). The 0-1 doesn’t bother me though, it’s the lack of improvement from last season. I thought this was a 8-8 team to start the season, but I was hoping they would take steps in the right direction. No steps were taken this past Sunday.
It’s not the end of the world though.