The Clausen era officially begun in Carolina with Jimmy's first TD pass. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Good morning Panther faithful. How does everyone feel this morning? Still stinging a little? I sure am, but I'll tell you what, I'd rather the pain of losing in the last seconds by two than the hopeless numbness that comes from a game where we never had a shot. Is it strange that I feel better at 0-4 than I did at 0-3? Maybe it is, but regardless I saw enough from enough guys to think that even if 2010 is a wash we have a very good team in the building.
Like we've been doing all season we can play the 'what if?' game with yesterday's loss:
"What if Munnerlyn didn't fumble?"
"What if Goodson wasn't face masked?"
"What if Smitty wasn't injured?"
"What if DeAngelo didn't try to break it to the outside at the end?"
Those are but four game changing plays all of which could have influenced the end of the game. Sure, there are an equal number where the ball bounced the Panthers' way but regardless the point in there.
Let's look inside the game and the players...
After the jump
Thus far in 2010 this is the point where I discuss the quarterbacks and how their performances are stacking up. While we saw by far the best QB play of the 2010 season yesterday, I've decided there is a player whose performance is more deserving of early recognition.
Last week many were in two minds whether my evaluation of James Anderson as 'extremely optimistic' was a fair one. After all, he did let some runs slip through his hands and could have been better dealing with Cedric Benson; today however, I feel there will be little argument about his standout performance.
Let's start with his stat line: 14 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries.
Read that line again... it will be criminal if he's not at least nominated for defensive player on the week. Anderson is a guy whose role was not cemented heading into training camp. When Na'il Diggs was cut there was a wide belief it would be a fight between Dan Connor, Anderson, Jamar Williams and Eric Norwood to see who would earn the SAM linebacker spot. With Thomas Davis' injury came the shuffling that eventually resulted in Anderson getting the nod on the strong side. While many fans have concentrated on Connor and Beason when it comes to the linebackers, Anderson has been steady and steadfast. This has allowed him to amass 43 tackles thus far, on pace for a total of 172 in 2010- truly remarkable stuff.
Perhaps most impressive in his performance was the intuitiveness to be around the ball and be a factor in fumbles. Anderson never gave up trying to make a play and this in turn allowed him to force one fumble and recover two. Great game overall.
James Anderson- Extremely Optimsitic: See above
Jimmy Clausen- Extremely Optimistic: This was far and away the best QB play we've seen in 2010. Though Clausen still needs to work on his patience and getting the angles on his passes better so they're not batted down, we've seen that most importantly he's going to protect the football. No fumbles issues this week, a bad pass or two? Sure... but it's clear to this fan that Jimmy Clausen is the real deal and the future of a QB position for the Carolina Panthers. For as much pomp and ballyhoo that Sam Bradford is getting his QB rating was still worse than Clausen's.
DeAngelo Williams- Extremely Optimistic: Did he likely cost the Panthers the chance to win at the end? Sure... but I'm not going to jump all over him for one ill advised cutback when without the one earlier in the game we wouldn't have had a chance to begin with. D-Will ran the ball much better against the Saints than we've seen all season and it appears he's getting his legs under him. 6.6 YPC, a great TD and good cuts mean I'm excited to see more.
David Gettis- Extremely Optimistic: Not so much based solely on his 37 yards receiving, but with one all important toe drag he gave the Panthers the chance to win. It was about time a receiver stepped up and showed they wanted to be the #2 receiver, and thus far it's Gettis who's proven it the most.
Mike Goodson- Extremely Optimistic: "Worst to first" at least for me anyways. If Goodson can keep retuning the ball the way he did then anything we get on offense will be the cherry on top. A 28 yard KR average is the best we've seen in almost two years, and without a horribly ugly facemask (which I hope will be reviewed by the league) who knows what would have happened on that final return.
Jason Baker- Somewhat Optimsitic: Steady and reliable as always. He's having a very, very good season.
Derek Landri- Somewhat Optimsitic: Like David Gettis is reaching up and taking the #2 WR spot by the throat so Derek Landri has done so on the defensive line. Another 5 tackles yesterday takes him to 17 on the season, for comparison Damione Lewis had 32 total in all of 2009.
Matt Moore: A special mention here for our backup QB. Moore was on the sidelines cheering his team on as loudly as anyone. He looked over photos with Clausen and Pike and was a great team player. It takes a lot of character to step up like that despite the beginning of the season. Give the man a contract (a cheap one) let's keep him as the backup long term.
Offensive Playcalling- Extremely Pessimistic: Davidson, Fox... it doesn't matter. The song remains the same on the lack of innovation in the play calling. At one point Smitty was motioning to the sideline that they needed to get the play to Clausen quicker, so one wonders whether Clausen skating the edge of the play clock for much of the day was really a product of a lost offense. Some of the best plays came when Clausen created himself, or audibled into a new play. This is exactly what we saw in 2009, and it has to change.
Mackenzy Bernadeau- Extremely Pessimistic: It was his turn to be terrible, and boy was he awful. An early sack, batted down passes by his man... the only reason DeAngelo Williams got his TD was that he exploited the fact New Orleans knew how terrible Mac-Bern and Schwartz were and blitzed too heavily. We need Otah back...
Brandon LaFell- Somewhat Pessimistic: There is no good reason David Gettis should make steps forward, but LaFell is treading water. It's still too early to condemn him, but he needs to make some strides soon.
Steve Smith- Somewhat Pessimistic: Even before the injury he doesn't look like the same player. His holding penalty erased a good gain, and even on the play where he was injured that's a play he would have gotten 15 yards on in years past, not 6.
Jonathan Stewart- Somewhat Pessimistic: Sure, the TD on the broken play was nice... but I don't look to J-Stew for his prowess on broken plays. 3.0 YPC simply wont cut it for our power back. He's still moving laterally far too often for my liking, maybe some of it is on the playcalling, but I didn't really like what I saw.
If you're like me you're excited by what you saw yesterday for the most part. The Panthers still have some life left in them yet and I think we'll see more from them next week vs. Chicago. Jimmy Clausen looks like the answer, more reps to Gettis and hopefully we'll start to see some positive signs of recovery from Jeff Otah. Oh... and cut Jarrett.
80% optimistic heading into the game vs. the Bears.