The fact the Panthers avoided the massive amount of turnovers like last week and kept this game close provides little consolation. The Panthers are 0-2 heading into a Monday Night game at Dallas. There will be a number of positives to take away from this game and several just the opposite. So here's the trusty old format the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
QB Jake Delhomme rebounded with a decent stat line (25 for 41, 308, TD, INT) and only threw one INT...but it was at the worst time. His pick on 4th and Goal essentially sealed the Falcons win though the Panthers miraculously still had a prayers chance at the end. Delhomme was good enough in this game but he couldn't overcome a Panthers' defense that couldn't get off the field and a special teams unit anything but special. The Panthers were also 7 for 12 on 3rd downs and put up 440 yards of offense.
Double Trouble was very effective as Williams (79 yds, TD) mixed in his cut backs with Stewarts straight up the gut gashes. The Panthers took advantage of the passes out of the backfield to the RB effectively something I hope we continue to see. Steve Smith got heated up with 8 receptions for 131 yards though he failed to grace the end zone.
On defense LB Thomas Davis had 12 tackles and CB Richard Marshall had the seasons first INT. The rushing defense seemed better but still have up 150 yards and a score. They also produced a fumble recovery for a total of two turnovers. Not much else was positive except for maybe a couple good plays from rookie Captain Munnerlyn.
The Panther pass rush was non-existent the entire game. Did they ever touch Matt Ryan? I don't think they even got a hit on him. When are the Panthers going to realize they have to bring pressure to get pressure?
The offenses red zone performance won't get it done long term either. In three trips the Panthers scored one TD and one FG. The Falcons in turn scored 3 TD's in four tries highlighting where the game was lost. RB DeAngelo Williams had his first fumbles in two seasons and it was a momentum killer. After the Panther created one of their precious turnovers via a Turner fumble Williams gave it right back.
This is an easy call, it's the special teams. P Brian Baker decided to inspect the ball before kicking it leading to a block and giving the Falcons a short field. In addition, after kicking a FG in the 2nd quarter to trim the lead to a point at 14-13 the coverage unit gave up a long run back leading to a half ending TD and Falcon 8 point lead. That one really hurt.
As easy as it is to decry the doom and gloom the truth at 0-2 the Panthers can turn things around and get back in the hunt. They simply have to focus week to week on the upcoming match-up and not worry about what the Saints and Falcons are doing. They have got to find a pass rush from somewhere and they have to fix special teams. If not the season could suddenly grow very long.