Good morning Panther faithful! Realistically, who thought we were going to beat the Patriots on Sunday? I always think the Panthers have a shot, but with a banged up o-line, a decimated D-line and a young QB it was always going to be an extremely tough game. Wes Welker demonized the Panthers' defense showing why he's one of the pre-eminent wide receivers in football; this coupled with a near 100 yard game from Kevin Faulk and the Patriots were near guaranteed a win, especially with how bad the Panthers' offense played on Sunday.
However, it wasn't all bad on Sunday. There were a few standout performances and some that were lacking. So join me when I break it all down:
After the jump...
I would be remiss if I didn't again spend time looking at the performance of Matt Moore. After all, for the majority of Panthers' fans this is the main focus during these final games down the stretch. As you may have guessed already if Moore is being mentioned here, he's not being mentioned in the rest of the article. Much like last week he turned in a run of the mill performance against the New England Patriots. Not good enough to deserve distinction, and not poor enough to garner being berated Moore had both extremely positive aspects to his game, and some worrying ones on Sunday.
The definite highlight was his 41 yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith in the first quarter. It certainly helped that Brandon Meriweather was caught in no mans land after cheating in far too much, but it was a pretty play. Sadly, there wasn't another play of note from the third year quarterback.
Early and often Moore was throwing high and away from his receivers. Though he got his arm under control midway through the second quarter he still displayed some poor decision making in his throws. There were four passes that should have been intercepted by the Patriots secondary after hitting them in the hands and being dropped. Moore had 9 lives on Sunday, and used up 8 of them.
Now that we have two games to analyze I think I've come to a fairly good conclusion of how Matt Moore plays as a QB. He isn't playing to win games; he's playing not to lose them. This isn't inherently a bad thing, but it's a little disheartening. For all Jake Delhomme's faults (of which there were many) he could never be accused of not doing everything in his power to try and win the football game. This oftentimes led to horrible throws, bad decisions, and numerous interceptions. Moore on the other hand seems too nervous to take a shot, or try and make a big play. Ultimately this gives him a pretty QB rating (82.2) but it won't necessarily result in wins.
What I'm talking about is this: of Moore's 30 attempts on Sunday he only targeted a wide receiver 12 times. The rest of the time he threw short passes to tight ends, or checked down to a running back. This is not how you play quarterback in the NFL. We do not have an Antonio Gates or Jason Witten on roster, and our running backs are not pass catching threats the caliber of a Ray Rice or LaDanian Tomlinson. Moore needs to put more faith in his wide receivers; particularly Steve Smith who he only threw to 5 times on Sunday. As it stands now, Moore is getting flustered in the pocket far too quickly and making the throw that is tantamount to giving up on the play; going to a check down too quickly. This may make your stats look good on a superficial level, but you don't put a drive together with these throws.
The other role that speaks to a QB's ability is a leadership one. Moore does not yet have the ability to read opposing defenses, call effective audibles or identify blitzing players. Of course it isn't all on Matt Moore, and somewhat expected with a young player; however, with Jake Delhomme at QB the Panthers averaged 151.3 rushing yards per game. With Matt Moore under center the Panthers are averaging 141.5. While that might not seem like a lot of a drop off, the last two games have been against quite poor run defenses. The team simply doesn't look as dynamic on offense with Moore taking the snaps.
The reason for these shortcomings could be myriad, but I think a strong case could be made for fear of reprisal by the fanbase. Moore saw how Jake was dragged over the coals for his poor performance and may want to avoid the same fate. This isn't the time to play it safe though. Much like Moore's QB play over the last two weeks he needs to play to win the starting QB job, not play to simply keep it. I know we've become accustomed to horrible play at the quarterback position in 2009, but I think some are overrating Moore's performance because they're comparing him to Jake Delhomme alone. I see Moore as a long time backup for this franchise in the mold of a Jim Sorgi or Charlie Batch who will always be ready to step in when needed and who can manage a game. I do not see him as a future answer at the position, or a long term solution.
That being said, I wholly believe Moore needs to remain the QB for the rest of the season. There is no reason to put Jake Delhomme back in for the final games unless he's planning to retire and these games can be his swansong. Moore should play out the season and we'll see if there's been any growth. I think it's improbable that he'll become a different QB, but crazier things have happened.
DeAngelo Williams- Extremely Optimistic: D-Will proved why he's one of the best RB's in the league. Sure he only had 82 yards on the day, but he ran at a pace of 6.3 ypc. The only question is ‘Why didn't get get more carries?' Williams was the only Panther who consistently moved the chains.
Chris Harris- Extremely Optimistic: CSR's own Chris Harris played a great game on Sunday. 6 tackles, 1 FF- he was a leader and a performer on defense. Great game.
Chris Gamble- Extremely Optimistic: Gamble did an excellent job covering Randy Moss and limiting him to 1 reception. Couple this with an INT and he deserves kudos.
Ron Meeks- Somewhat Optimistic: Meeks drew up another great defense Sunday that kept the Patriots below their season averages. The defense were on the field for 34:15, which is entirely too long. The offense couldn't stay on the field.
Offensive Line- Extremely Pessimistic: The line is still a major concern. The decision to give Jordan Gross that giant contract extension is being justified each week.
Gary Barnidge- Somewhat Pessimistic: C'mon Barnidge. Why did you drop to your knees 2 yard before that 1st down? That's about the only bad thing I can say, but it was a bad football move.
Everette Brown- Somewhat Pessimistic: You picked a bad play to have a bad play, Everette. The roughing the punter penalty sealed the Panthers' fate... it was a bad rookie mistake.
The Panthers are now 5-8, and we're playing to see what the future holds. There are some good aspects that a losing season brings. It lets the coaching staff take some risks with the roster that they normally wouldn't, which ultimately puts you in better stead for the future and understanding your talent. The downside is, however, you're losing and the fan base may grow apathetic.
We have Minnesota on Sunday night in what looks to be another extremely tough game. Knowing the Panthers proclivity to look horrible on national games it doesn't bode well for this week.
45% Optimistic about the future as we face the Minnesota Vikings