Good morning Panther faithful and welcome to the Monday Morning Optimist; and boy oh boy, do we have a lot to be optimistic about this week! The proverbial voodoo doll that was created in the 2008 playoffs has been poked and prodded by most of our opponents in 2009 and ultimately, we're hoping Jake exorcised those demons with a little Cajun mojo to bring the Panthers back from the brink. By no means did Jake do it alone, nor has he done enough to absolve himself from this season's other performances, but it's a start.
One of the key weaknesses of the Carolina Panthers has been our turnover ratio (so aptly written about by Ryan Basen last week for CSR ). Against the Cardinals the Panthers forced six turnovers without turning the ball over once; couple this with a power running game and a choking defense and it's hard to believe watching Sunday's game that the Panthers are a sub .500 football team.
Overall it was a big, fat EXTREMELY OPTIMISTIC for the entire Panthers team on Sunday. But, stay tuned after the jump for more analysis and individual accolades.
Yesterday's game was a solid example of what I like to call ‘football abuse'. This occurs when a team takes their opponent's traditional strengths and turns them into weaknesses; this was perfectly typified in Sunday's game. The Panthers ran all over the Cardinals, and when Arizona were forced to throw to get back into the game we intercepted Warner five times, that means we averaged over 1 INT per 10 pass attempts against one of the best QBs and best pass offenses in the NFL. We should hold our heads very, very high.
Does anyone doubt Ron Meeks at this point? Anyone against Ron Meeks please stand up. He has proved that his defensive scheme works, and done so admirably. We are still #1 in the NFL against the pass and proving this against Kurt Warner and the Cards prove it's not just a fluke, or padded by playing poor QBs. We have the #1 pass defense in the NFL despite playing Donovan McNabb, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo and Kurt Warner... think about that. Furthermore, we are slowly climbing up the ladder for rush yards allowed, now at 24th and a 7th in the NFL in total yards allowed. The future is looking very bright on the defensive side of the ball.
Thank you Jeff Davidson for coming to your senses! I don't know whether Fox dropped an iron fist, or Davidson realized the obvious, but running the ball over 40 times and passing 15 is a guaranteed method for offensive success with this football team. With Sunday's game the Panthers improved to 5th in the NFL in run offense with DeAngelo Williams not only forcing his way into the top 10 in rushing yards, but also establishing a new mark becoming the all time rushing leader for the Carolina Panthers. Let's hope this keeps up!
Julius Peppers- Extremely Optimistic: Pep, what can we say? You've been a beast. I never doubted Peppers' ability, just his desire. Though the cynic in me wonders if this is because it's a contract year, the optimist in me wants to believe his (alleged) speech to his teammates was heartfelt, and he realizes that too often he has phoned in his performances. If this is the Julius Peppers we get every week, then I wholly advocate trying to keep him in Carolina and let him retire a Panther, though it will take a lot on Pep's part not to leave for big money. The key for 2009 though is that teams are starting to fear Peppers, which in turn will open up more opportunities for Brayton, Brown and Johnson- and this is where we will succeed.
DeAngelo Williams- Extremely Optimistic: There is no running back in the NFL with more poise. D-Will has an innate understanding of blocking schemes to the point where he knows he can either make his move in 1 second and get 3-4 yards, or wait that extra second, let blocks develop and get a 9-10 yard gain. His performance yesterday was simply stunning.
Jonathan Stewart- Extremely Optimistic: Hey, remember when Jonathan Stewart was injured? Neither do I! He is running like a man possessed and I can't honestly remember the last time a single tackler was able to take down J-Stew without assistance. The Panthers have the best tandem in the NFL and Stewart is brining it each and every week.
Sherrod Martin- Extremely Optimistic: Sherrod, where have you been all my life? In my mind a great victory entails two parts:
One- Great players playing to their potential,
Two- Getting a great performance from an unlikely source.
Martin was scintillating at FS. We've become attuned to having a FS in Godfrey who was a safety valve to prevent the big play, but not a playmaker in his own right. Martin made plays and was flying around. He should be cemented as the starter, because Martin and Harris shape up to be the playmakers we need in the secondary.
Thomas Davis- Extremely Optimistic: I'll sing his praises ‘til I'm blue in the face. There's nothing more to add. Davis' performance yesterday was like Davis' performances all season, breathtaking.
Jon Beason- Extremely Optimistic: Watch out... Beason's about. He's coming back to form and having fun out there. I would be remiss in not giving credit to our defensive QB when the defense performed so well.
The Injury Bug- Somewhat Pessimistic: Waiting to hear on Jake Delhomme and Brad Hoover are the only negatives to come out of Sunday's game. If someone can think of another pessimistic element let me know in the comments, because I've racked my brains trying to find one, and I can't.
As sweet as the Panthers' win was, it served to mildly punctuate just how much the Buffalo loss hurt. Beating Buffalo would have made us 4-3 and forced a tie at second with the Falcons (provided they lose tonight), but c'est la vie, such is life.
The Cardinals game was a statement. I'm not a superstitious man, but part of me thinks that some bad mojo got removed from the Panthers in Glendale. We head to the Superdome to face the juggernaut that is the New Orleans Saints. On paper, we should get destroyed by the Saints... luckily though; football is played on a field, not on paper. Never count out these division matchups; because regardless of who we play next week, if the Panthers can run the ball and play defense like they did yesterday you'll be hard pressed to find any team in the NFL who can beat these Panthers. Yes, it was one good game in a sea of mediocrity, but sooner or later the rain must end and the Panthers just got their head above water, for the first time in 2009.
65% Optimistic heading to New Orleans