Panthers Thoughts – Week Eight: Same Script
My thoughts on another last second Carolina Panthers loss.
Cam Newton said it best last week, “same script, same director.” He was criticized for those comments and I’m not sure why considering that he was exactly right. People want Cam Newton to be a leader. It’s tough to be a leader when you have direction and no one around you is willing to follow.
If you’ve seen one Panthers game these past two years, you saw the one this past Sunday. The Panthers led with just over two minutes. The Bears offense, which had looked pretty terrible all day until the fourth quarter, marched down the field and kicked the game winning field goal as time expired. The offense put the defense in a position to win the game and the defense once again squandered it late. It’s a real shame too, because for three quarters, the defense was outstanding. They put a ton of pressure on Jay Cutler and forced three turnovers. Then the Bears offense figured out that, if Cutler gets rid of the ball quickly, he can’t get sacked. So they kept running the same three step drop and hit the receiver on a quick slant play and yet after 50 tries, the Panthers still couldn’t figure out how to defend the play. It led to the Bears touchdown in the fourth quarter and led to them driving down the field to set up the field goal.
It’s a real shame too, because the offense finally figured things out. If you look at the stats, you’d probably think Cam had a mediocre game as, despite throwing for 300 yards, he threw two interceptions. But the first interception came with 30 seconds left in the first half with Cam just trying to make something happen and the other came when Steve Smith slipped running his timing route, leaving the cornerback wide open to catch the pass. The unfortunate part about the second turnover was that the defense returned it for a touchdown, giving the Bears the lead. That said, it’s very hard to fault Cam for either turnover, but don’t tell that to anyone else. And even after the interception, Cam led the team down the field, could’ve had a go-ahead TD if Smith makes a catch that me makes 90% of the time, but settled for the go-ahead field goal with two and a half minutes left in the game.
Besides those turnovers, the offense got back to basics, which meant no read options. They just put the tailback behind the quarterback, handed him in the ball, and let him do his thing. It allowed Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to read the blocking, make their cuts, and get into a rhythm. Stewart had his most efficient game to date, but Williams continues to disappoint. The offense was very effective against an outstanding Bears defense though, establishing possession and putting together long drives that ended with points on the board.
If you really want to put this loss on someone though, put it on the special teams coach, who was so afraid of Devin Hester that he allowed the Bears to start almost every drive on their own 40 yard line. You want to talk about a coach having no faith in his team, Brian Murphy had no faith that his team could tackle Hester or no faith that the kicker could kick it away from him. In fact, a punt that sailed out of bounds at the 50 yard line is what set up the Bears fourth quarter TD. Why did the punt only travel six yards and go out of bounds, because the punter was instructed to keep it away from Hester and that mindset, combined with the terrible wind, caused Brad Nortman to shank the kick. It’s tough to win a game when you’re allowing the other team 20-30 free yards to start every drive so the fact that the Panthers hung in there until the end, is actually a positive.
It gets tiring watching the same game every week, so I can only imagine how Cam Newton feels. No matter what he does, he’s scrutinized. This loss isn’t on him, but he’ll take blame for it, and then people will criticize him for taking the loss too hard. And I’ve been one of those people in the past, and I do think that he needs to have a short memory, but everyone wants him to be a leader. Doesn’t a leader stick up for his teammates? Doesn’t a leader take the blame when no one else will? No matter what he does, he’s going to be overanalyzed by every armchair quarterback and psychiatrist and in this case, there’s nothing to analyze. He played well, but he can’t play every position and he’s not the head coach.
With this game out of the way, now the Panthers can focus on the trade deadline, where rumors are swirling around DeAngelo Williams. Williams’ value has plummeted these last two seasons, but he still has the skills to be a starting back in the league, just not for the Panthers. If I’m Carolina, I commit to Stewart as my number one and try to get rid of Williams and his terrible contract any way I can. The asking price can’t be that high and if a team is willing to take on that contract, then let them.
This Panthers team needs an almost complete overhaul, and if it can’t start with the head coach, it needs to start with Williams. Trading him not only helps the team on the field, as Rod Chudzinski doesn’t have to figure out a way to keep his stable of running backs happy, but it helps the team off the field as it frees up some much needed money to go after guys who can actually have an impact on game day.
The script isn’t likely to change much this year, but maybe it’ll be heavily edited in the coming weeks.