Panthers Thoughts – Week 1: New Season. Same Script
Recap of the Carolina Panthers week one loss to the Seattle Seahawks, which looked all too familiar.
Not much has changed these past few months for the Carolina Panthers. Most of the players are the same, most of the coaching staff is the same, and the team still plays the same.
Up 7-6 after three quarters, the Panthers once again blew the lead and the game to the Seattle Seahawks. It started with Josh Thomas getting beat deep twice by a Seahawks receiver. The first pass was dropped. The second was caught by Jermaine Kearse for a touchdown to give the Seahawks a 12-7 lead. The Seahawks failed on a two point conversion, giving the Panthers a window to still win the game.
Like they’ve done so many times under Ron Rivera though, the offense couldn’t put points on the board when it mattered. Everything looked like it was going well as the team was driving and the Seahawks took a couple of bad penalties, but after a 20-yard run, DeAngelo Williams fumbled the ball in the red zone and the Seahawks recovered. With just over five minutes left, the Panthers defense was unable to make a stop and the Seahawks were able to run out the clock.
As Cam Newton said last year, “same script.”
For three quarters this was an absolutely dominating defense up front. The front seven got pressure on almost every play, forced Russell Wilson to get out of the pocket and make some desperation throws, and completely bottled up Marshawn Lynch. In the fourth quarter though, the pressure disappeared, and the below average secondary was exposed by Wilson and the Seahawks receivers.
The offense could’ve helped the defense out in those three quarters by putting some more points on the board, but Greg Olsen dropped a couple of easy passes that would’ve been first downs and the run game couldn’t pick up two yards in two tries. One Olsen catch and one two yard gain would’ve extended both drives for the offense.
It was another disappointing loss, but one Panthers fans have come to expect over the past three seasons.
Cam Newton looked like the mature leader that fans had hoped he would become. He made smart decisions, fought for extra yards, didn’t turn the ball over, and ran the offense smoothly. Obviously it would’ve been nice if the offense put more points on the board, but he did everything he could do to help the team. I hope this continues throughout the season because if he plays with this kind of consistency, and his teammates step up for him, the offense will be in good hands.
Steve Smith was his usual self and Olsen, minus those two big drops, was solid. As was the worry heading into the season though, no other receiver stepped up. Ted Ginn had one catch and Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams had a few drop offs to them, but everyone else was quiet, including Brandon LaFell, who is in need of a big year.
The makeshift offensive line, which took a hit almost immediately when Garry Williams was carted off with an injury, held up for the most part as well. Not being able to ran the ball in short yardage situation was a problem, but otherwise they protected Cam better than anyone expected and the ran game was there for most of the game.
Defensively, as mentioned, everything was good for three quarters. Star Lotulelei, Greg Hardy, and Charles Johnson were forces up front, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis controlled the middle well, and Luke Kuechly was all over the field. They forced Wilson to make short passes and then swarmed to the ball carrier. When the pressure wasn’t there though, the secondary was left out to dry and they’re simply not good enough to cover anyone decent. That’s going to be a problem all season if the Panthers can’t pressure the quarterback.
It’s only week one, so there’s no need to hit the panic button yet, but this has been a two year trend for the Panthers and I’m not sure if it’s ever going to change under Ron Rivera. I know that it’s not all his fault since he can’t secure the ball for Williams or play coverage for Norman, but sooner or later something needs to happen that inspires this team. Whatever Rivera is doing, it’s not inspiring the team in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers have a bye week very early this year (Week 4) and it’s very important for them to be 2-1 heading into that bye. Rivera most likely won’t be fired if the team has a losing record, but he’s on a short leash already and losses like this just make ownership choke up a bit more.