Good morning Panther faithful, and what a glorious morning it is! We're not accustomed to seeing the Panthers dominate a game on Sundays, and we're even less accustomed to seeing it happen on the national stage, but boy-oh-boy did the Panthers bring it last night. The turned up the volume in every phase of the game, and shocked the vast majority of the football world. The Panthers played like men possessed, they played like the superstars they are. A pessimist might say ‘too little, too late' but I am an eternal optimist... and I'm insanely excited for this team. We are getting good looks at the depth of talent we have, and there are some very, very nice surprises.
So please, join me as I break down the performances from the Panthers dominant Sunday night win:
After the jump...
A funny thing happened after I wrote my ‘Hump Day Prognostication' piece on Wednesday. I checked my email at noon... nothing of note apart from some spam. When I checked at 1 p.m. I had 3 messages from upset Viking fans, by 3 p.m. I had 47 emails from Viking fans who wanted to call me all manor of names, berate my article and otherwise mock me for having the unabashed gall to pick the Carolina Panthers to win Sunday night's game. For these fans, they didn't see how complimentary I was of the Vikings throughout the article, nor did they see my disclaimer that I don't pick against my Panthers... for them, picking against the Vikings was an affront. This struck me as fairly odd; after all, why would 47 fans of a surging 11-2 team feel the need to even address an article on a Panthers' blog simply because I picked against them? Then I realized... the trap was on. The Vikings' fan base who emailed me had absolutely no ability to even entertain the idea that the Panthers could be the better team on Sunday.
I'm not going to assume that the 53 Minnesota Vikings underestimated the Panthers like those 47 fans did; however, I will definitely put forth the notion that they had no idea just how good these Panthers could be... and I say this because truth be told, I didn't know these Carolina Panthers could play like that on Sunday.
I've gone back and forth in my mind on whether to address some of the comments emailed to me. In the end, the depth and breadth or just how insulting some of these emails were leads to believe I need to post some of them, as a cathartic experience if nothing else. The names of the innocent have been protected, but I give you: Excerpts from the Viking 47.
"I hope you realize the Vikings have not given up a 100 yards to a runner in over 2 years the last time this happened was in Nov. of 2007. They shut down the Passing and running game of Cincinnati a better team than the Panthers."
Jonathan Stewart- 109 yards. Looks like we need to move that date forward a little bit!
"The Vikings are going to beat the shit out of the Panthers this Sunday."
Oh well... can't blame someone for being confident I guess. They just weren't as eloquent as I was with my prediction.
"You have no QB... Steve Smith is done and your running game is overrated. How exactly are the Panthers going to win? What is someone from Australia talking about NFL anyway?"
Matt Moore- 299 yards, 3 TD.
Steve Smith- 157 yards
Jonathan Stewart- 109 yards
Evidently this Australian knows a little more about pro-football that you sir.
"DON'T MAKE MY LAUGH! PANTHERS WIN? HAHAHA. VIKES 42 - PANTHERS 3"
To be fair, maybe he was trying to predict Adrian Peterson' rushing yards and Julius Peppers' sacks?
The emails went on like this, and these were the tamest ones. The vast majority couldn't even be edited while remaining legible for the masses. So CSR readers, thank you for letting me vent. Believe me, I'm not saying that all Vikings fans are like this select 47... and I understand since these 47 emailed me, rather than comment on the article it's likely they weren't members of the SBnation community, but in hindsight these emails were so hilarious I thought I needed to share.
Matt Moore- Extremely Optimistic: That's what I'm talking about! The prior two weeks I have been yearning to see a performance from Matt Moore that shows he can be an NFL caliber QB. Now I have that performance. Last night's win was the first time Moore played a great game and there were no asterisks or question marks. In 2007 ‘garbage games' for our opponents tarnished his wins, in his first two games of 2009 Moore was less than stellar.
On Sunday the Vikings were fighting to pull close to the Saints and possibly nab the #1 spot. They had something to play for... and Matt Moore outplayed them. Moore stopped overly relying on his outlet routes and took shots downfield, he got Smitty involved early and often... he did everything we need at the position. I hope this continues because the optimist in me wants to believe last night's performance was the rule, not the exception and that ultimately all Moore needed was two games to shake off two year's of rust. A stellar performance by the young QB.
Julius Peppers- Extremely Optimistic: When a DE plays so well that the opposing LT is benched you know he's doing something right! Peppers was flying all over the field on Sunday's game. Pep was in the backfield as much as Brett Favre was, constantly hounding the Mississippi Methuselah and forcing bad throws. His stat line doesn't necessarily show just how dominant he was, but those of us who watched the game saw his impact.
The best part of watching Peppers last night? His joy. It's been a long time since I've seen Pep having that much fun playing the game. Perhaps he felt stifled by Mike Trgovac's uncreative defense; perhaps he just needed a defensive philosophy change, not a change of scenery. Whatever it was that fueled him last night I also hope it fuels him to sign on the bottom line and retire a Carolina Panther... because ultimately the fan base have unconditional love for Pep and want to see him back at BoA in 2010.
Steve Smith- Extremely Optimistic: Smitty never left us, he just lay dormant... waiting to be awoken like a sleeping giant. Well, Matt Moore woke Smitty last night and what a game. He torched the Vikings' secondary after the catch and proved with every reception that regardless of what the stats say he's one of the best receivers in the NFL. I say this because when he has the ball in his hands he can take over a game better than anyone in the NFL, and I truly believe that. The Panthers have struggled getting the ball in his hands, which is why he's faltered in 2009.
Couple his amazing performance with what could possibly be the best post-game interview in Sunday night football history and you have an amazing night by Steve Smith.
Jonathan Stewart- Extremely Optimistic: Stewart had to take the full load when DeAngelo Williams went out injured, and what a great performance he turned in. Stewart squared up his shoulders and dared the Vikings to be tougher than him... they couldn't do it. If there was a one-on-one tackle on J-Stew I didn't see it, often requiring 3 or 4 players to get him on the ground Stewart's performance should be edited into an instructional film on ‘North-South' running.
James Anderson- Extremely Optimistic: Filling in for Thomas Davis was never going to be an easy task, but great play from Anderson makes it a little easier to swallow. He may not have turned in the clearly dominant performance Pep did, but his numbers speak for themselves. 11 tackles, 9 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 PD... what an amazing game.
Ron Meeks- Extremely Optimistic: I <3 you Ron Meeks.
Geoff Schwartz- Extremely Optimistic: Schwartz was good... really good filling in for Jeff Otah. Jonathan Stewart was singing his praises all week, and maybe we should have paid closer attention to Schwartz who anchored the right side of the line and held strong.
Chris Harris- Somewhat Optimistic: We have to rib Chris a little for getting steamrolled by Peterson, but he made it up in a big way with his end zone interception.
Everette Brown- Somewhat Optimistic: In my mind too many people tout Brown as little more than a wasted draft pick and characterize him as ‘the player that cost us a 1st rounder'. Ultimately, when you see how he can play I think he's worthy of the pick we gave up. Brown is still seeing limited time, but he's currently 3rd in the NFL in sacks by rookie defensive linemen, 1st in FF by a rookie defensive lineman and 3rd in tackles by a rookie DE. In my mind we need to permanently move Peppers back to the left and start Brown on the right... there's too much speed in that pass rush for most teams to contain.
Ron Meeks is going to turn Brown into the next Dwight Freeney... mark my words and if that's the production we get out of the young speed rusher then I'm glad we gave up a 1st rounder.
Tyrell Sutton- Somewhat Optimistic: Going into the season it was assumed that Mike Goodson was going to be the third part of a true three headed monster backfield. As time goes on it looks more and more like Sutton could be that guy. When I see Sutton, I see Nick Goings... and that how I project him. He's going to be a reliable, steadfast 3rd RB who will do whatever is asked of him and bring it every second he's on the field. I love what I'm seeing from Sutton.
For the first time this season... none. I've been struggling to think of someone who played poorly enough to garner a negative ranking and that player doesn't exist. There's no need nit picking every bad play when players made up for them on other downs. It was just a great overall performance.
The Panthers are now 6-8, and after the Cowboys' unlikely win we are mathematically eliminated. People can say ‘why didn't we play like this when it mattered?' but ultimately seeing the Panthers play like this when we don't have anything to play for is almost more reassuring than seeing us fight when we need to. This team wasn't going to roll over and play dead for anyone, let alone a division champ. We have backups and depth players using the opportunities they are getting effectively. It bodes well for the 2010 campaign.
Next we have the NY Giants in our second to last game. While I don't expect the same level of domination as last night I do think this team can chalk up a W. Here's hoping last night's game becomes the standard for Carolina Panther football... not the anomaly.
75% Optimistic about the future as we face the New York Giants