Let's celebrate awhile.
Sure there bad plays and missed assignments, but for this thread, anyway, I want to concentrate on what went RIGHT that contributed to our first win.#10 -- Captain JON BEASON -- say what you want about the public forum he chose to call out Julius Peppers, but I give him the initial credit for the win, for stepping up in his leadership role, and in effect, saying "man up" to the team. Plus his 10 tackles and sack didn't hurt, either.
#9 -- Picking up HOLLIS THOMAS as soon as the Rams let him go. The fat guy stepped in and stepped up, allowing our LB's to avoid the blockers that had been in their faces in previous games. Run defense in the middle problem? Solved. Looked to me like he played as well as or better than Kemo ever had. Worry about next year, next year, when he'll be a year older. This year, unless he, too, gets hurt, we can forget about Nick Hayden getting pushed around any more.
#8 -- DEFENSIVE LINE play in general was excellent. TYLER BRAYTON won't get a lot of press on this game, but it was his blow to Chris Samuels on their 2nd play of the game that gave him the "stinger" that floored him and knocked him out of the game, allowing pressure on their subs at OT to lead to subsequent sacks later on. And -- though Thomas Davis is given credit for the tipped pass in the 4th quarter that stopped their drive -- if you look at the film, it was actually Brayton who got up and tipped the pass, before Davis had a shot at it. EVERETTE BROWN got his first sack of the season on a nifty spin move that I doubt any OT in the league could've handled. This is encouraging for the future -- we CAN get sacks on QB's who don't get the ball out in 3 counts.
#7 -- JULIUS PEPPERS deserves separate credit -- he played his best game of the year, better than the showing he put out against Philly. He can apparently take a scolding (see #10 above) and react positively. If he can maintain this level of intensity, our DL will function adequately, and if that happens, all the guys behind them can make plays.
#6 -- CHRIS HARRIS return was bigger than we hoped for -- all that talk about what a weapon Chris Cooley was gonna be, and how we never could handle a TE, anyway? Cooley was shut down with -0- catches!
#5 -- JOHN FOX's play calling has been castigated here and elsewhere, but I salute him on going for it on 4th and goal. Never mind that Hoover coughed it up, and we came away with no points. Too many head coaches would've settled for the chip shot FG, but he sent his players a message that he's coaching to win, and I like that. Think for a moment what would've transpired had we taken the FG -- now down 7-3, we kick off to the Skins, and they start a drive from their 20 (Lloyd had 3 touchbacks in the game, earning his salary) -- but instead, they have to start backed up in the end zone, and before you know it, we've earned a 2 point Safety, gotten a big adrenalin boost, and had them kick to us, rather than the other way around! In effect, we sacrifice 1 point for a possession change. Then later on, with the game on the line, he has the guts to call (or approve) the naked bootleg play that seals the win. (More on that below.) I think the guy's got class, and despite his not wearing his heart on his sleeve with the media, I love him as our coach. It's popular to call for his head, and Jake's, and Hurney's -- but let's face it -- in your heart, aren't you glad you root for a team that's got that class?
#4 -- THOMAS DAVIS continues to put forth Pro Bowl production at LB. I don't know how they credit the Safety, whether to him or to Peppers -- either of them would've taken down Portis, since Sellers made no block on anybody, it's more blame on him than anything else. But Davis was in the backfield, and is shooting the gaps he sees with such regularity that he may be the MVP on the Panthers right now.
#3 -- Our SPECIAL TEAMS has gotten a lot of deserved criticism (no more so than by me) for their shoddy play in the first 3 games, but they really came up big yesterday. Only allowing 3 yards to the Skins on 4 punts was outstanding. We had 9 guys around the receiver on the fumbled punt, with QUINTON TEAL and DANTE WESLEY getting the credit for the crucial turnover. JASON BAKER'S punts were as good as RYHS LLOYD'S kickoffs -- unreturnable.
#2 -- KENNETH MOORE has just won the return job, in my mind. His 55 yard return on the kickoff, just after they'd scored, turned the momentum back to our side. He made some nice moves on that return, as opposed to what we'd been accustomed to seeing from others: just running into the pile, or bobbling the ball. And I think he's caught every ball thrown to him this year. (Anybody see Dwayne Jarrett? Did he make the trip to BofA stadium?)
#1 -- who else? JAKE DELHOMME, God love him, is the heart of the Panthers. He shook off the INT (not entirely his fault, as to my mind, Moose should've either caught it or prevented the pick) -- whereas a QB with less resolve, given the history of the last 3 games, and the criticism he's heard, would've then pressed and made more mistakes. He shows such love of the game, and I'd rather root for his success, and his emotion, and his drive, than back one of the many robotic QB's in the league who may have better mechanics. The bootleg was quintessential Delhomme -- unexpected, awkward, yet he made it, dragging DeAngelo Hall the final 3 yards to pick up the 1st down, to seal the win.