Good morning Panther faithful. We came close, very, very close... and that's why this win hurts more than it should. I said in Wednesday's prognostication column that the Panthers were a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team, and that Mr. Hyde (the beast) would need to show up for 60 minutes in New Orleans if we hoped to best the Saints. We got 30 minutes of beastliness, and 30 minutes of the placid doctor on Sunday; and that's why we're 3-5 this morning.
We were a confident fan base heading into the weekend; but we all knew just how hard this game was going to be. The Saints were 7-0 for a reason, conversely we were 3-4 for a reason, and that reason had a lot to do with being unable to find our identity. As fast as we gained it, we lost it in the second half of Sunday's game. Players blew coverage, the offense stalled, and we left too much of an opening for the best offense in the NFL to burn us.
So, it's time to lick our wounds, look behind the numbers and find out what went wrong in the Bayou.
More after the jump...
Maybe someone should head to Charlotte with a TV, a DVD player and a copy of Herm Edwards' famous ‘You play to win the game' post-game press conference. It seems that the coaching staff (in particular John Fox and Jeff Davidson) didn't look interested in winning the game. They wanted to keep it close so it would be tougher to fire them in their exit interviews. When the Panthers jumped to the lead in the first half, going into halftime it seems the prevailing wisdom was ‘Let's do what we did last week, just keep running the ball and burn the clock'. That wisdom worked against Arizona because the defense was able to consistently get turnovers, but against New Orleans we were not going to have as much luck.
A couple of weeks ago after Buffalo I excluded Jake Delhomme from the Optimistic/Pessimistic ratings to focus on him. Well, now's the time to focus on offensive co-coordinator Jeff Davidson who's made a weekly name for himself on the pessimistic side of the column. It's hard to believe this man has been with the team over a season, and it's hard to believe the team went 12-4 last season with him at the helm of the offense. He is clearly a man who looks petrified he's going to lose his job and will do anything to keep it, including sinking the team.
The questionable play calls were vast. Okay, you have success with Tyrell Sutton twice on FB dives; we get it, but why call that play on the 1 yard line? Botched handoff or not, I never want a rookie in his first game, with less than 3 carries to his name to be responsible for a goal line dive; especially with DeAngelo and Stewart in the wings. There is no excuse for it.
While their may be some hidden blueprint for how many carries D-Will should get and how many J-Stew should have it needs to be malleable. It was clear that J-Stew was ineffective yesterday and DeAngelo was the hot hand. You ride that pony as much as you can and you don't stop until you've won the game. Williams had 14 carries in the first half, and 7 in the second. Conversely, Stewart had 6 carries in the first half and 7 in the second. Is this the idea of a halftime adjustment? Going to the weaker back? There are going to be days where Williams is better and there are going to be days Stewart is better, but not recognizing which is which becomes a major failing of the offensive coordinator.
Then we come to the passing game. 17 of Jake Delhomme's 30 passing attempts came in the 4th quarter; we ran the ball 7 times. The game was not out of hand in the 4th and only truly over after the Williams fumble. What is the excuse for passing the ball 71% of the time in the 4th? Was this supposed to stop the bleeding? Without Muhsin Muhammad and Dante Rosario how exactly was the passing game going to be dynamic enough to best the Saints? Had Jake thrown an interception, or a pick 6 in the 4th we'd all be in Charlotte right now with flaming torches and pitchforks; maybe we still should. If John Fox survives this season Jeff Davidson has to go... he has to... he's that bad.
It wasn't all bad though in New Orleans, like I said earlier it stings more than it probably should, but there were some bright spots in the game. I'm going to kick off the individual ratings a little differently today. During the live thread and via e-mail I had numerous requests for players who deserve to be in this morning's column and I appreciate the feedback... but, some of them I don't see as positive or negative so I'll start with a few ‘pushes' of noticeable players who either erased great performances with mediocrity, or vice-versa.
DeAngelo Williams- Push: Loved the TD runs D-Will, I really did. You had them reeling! But the dropped TD pass and the fumble... not so much.
Dwayne Jarrett- Push: Loved that you caught some passes this week and liked your run blocking. Didn't love the dropped deep pass in the 4th; you should have had that one.
Ron Meeks- Somewhat Optimistic: The defense did an outstanding job against the Saints on a whole. Revshawn said it best yesterday stating that the Panthers only allowed 23 points (sans the D-Will fumble) yesterday. The big gains were preventable and hurt us, but New Orleans are a team who averaged 39 points and 428 yards going into Sunday's game. The Panther's D allowed 23 points and 414 yards. Holding an offense as good as the Saints under their averages is a major accomplishment, and who knows what could have happened if playmaker Thomas Davis was able to stay in the full game. A dark spot however is that the Panthers fell to 7th in the NFL in pass defense after this game.
Jon Beason- Somewhat Optimistic: The leader played a great game. He called out numerous defensive adjustments that helped solidify the goal line stands.
Gary Barnidge- Somewhat Optimistic: Barnidge is starting to develop into the pass catching and blocking TE we were hoping he would. Let's hope he keeps it up.
Tyrell Sutton- Somewhat Optimistic: Wow Tyrell, where have you been? Sutton played well enough to vault over Mike Goodson on the depth chart and proved dynamic in his playing time.
Chris Gamble- Somewhat Optimistic: Nice game Chris. He tackled well and had an INT, enough to get recognized.
Tyler Brayton- Somewhat Optimistic: Good game by Tyler with a sack and FF. He's making a name for himself on the d-line.
Richard Marshall- Extremely Pessimistic: Get burned once, shame on you... get burned twice... still shame on you, and now you're in this section of the column. The two biggest gains of the day by Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem were directly related to Richard Marshall's coverage. He also offered no help in stopping outside runs, horrible game.
Julius Peppers- Somewhat Pessimistic: Pep was a non-factor on Sunday. We expected so much more.
Sherrod Martin- Somewhat Pessimistic: I think we all drank from the Kool-Aid a little too soon. I expected more this week.
We played the Saints well, very well. Perhaps better than any other team has played the Saints this season. While we lost the battle, we haven't lost the war. We have a game with Atlanta next and a chance to pull a little closer in the NFC South. Losses by Chicago, Green Bay and the NY Giants help our cause to push for a wild card. It's going to be extremely difficult and darn near impossible, but there's still hope yet. We did play well against New Orleans, but right now we have to fight with a team every week and an offensive coordinator... something has to give.
60% Optimistic heading home to face the Falcons.