Blessed by sub-standard expectations for the season (and overshadowed by a looming lockout, an apparently God-send team [NO] in the division, and teams with reality shows on HBO), no cars were burned in downtown Charlotte; no bricks went through the store windows; and no hate letters were sent to Matt Moore's home. It is, after all, week 1, and we have a 15 games ahead of us. The Denver Broncos last year, if you remember, went 6-0 (?) before imploding faster then Chernobyl and missing the playoffs. The Panthers once went 1-7 before playing like the NFC Pro Bowl Team and winning 6 of their last 8 games (and consequently losing to New Orleans in one of the biggest buzzkill games of all time). So take everything said below with a grain of salt--all is not lost. Besides, the Colts are 0-1 also.....
With that being said, there are some things to be concerned about. Likewise, there is still reason to be optimistic. Let us start with the bad news first shall we?
1) the O-line. Jordan Gross faced the Mythological Beast that is Justin Tuck, and, well, things went as well as they could go when you line up against a guy who looks like Iron Man. But atleast he has an excuse. The rest of the line was extremely dissapointing. They played excellently for the first 6 plays, remembered how fat they were, and proceeded to run ouf of breath immediately. The second half was dismal; D-Williams had few holes to run through, and Matt Moore, in fairness, had very little time to throw. Every snap taken triggered a seismic rush of blue jerseys ready to devour the kid with the eye black. There were times when the running backs picked up the blitzes more effectively than the linemen themselves. Otah's injury was blatant.
2) Jon "The Daily Show" Stewart. After his first rush of the season, # 28 dissapeared faster than the Titanic. I hope he is healthy. If not, D-Will will be left to fend for himself...
3) The secondary. There were more holes then Swiss Cheese and an M. Night Shymalan plot combined. For every hard hit delivered by Godfrey or Gamble, there was a breakdown in coverage. To let Mario Manningham get so frequently open is unacceptable; besides giving up three TD catches, they did an okay job on Hakeem Nicks (Tarheel nation secretly rejoices); and Steve Smith fought hard for thecoveted title of "Best Steve Smith on the field." If the corners and safeties dont tighten up, the pass defense will be the Achilles Heel of this team.
4) The playcalling. Based upon the formations, predicting if the Panthers would run or pass was about as difficult as predicting a John Grisham love story. Throwing 3 times within the 5 yard line when you have two finely-tuned machines in the backfield??? Unacceptable. Multiple red zone interceptions??? Even worse...
And now for the good....smile!....
1) Special teams. Where the hell did our kick return game come from? That kick return to mid-field in the last minutes of the second half was one of the brightest spots for the Panthers all day. Father Time nailed all 3 field goals, hitting one from 52 yards. And we even blocked a punt for a safety. It was by far one of the best special teams performances I've seen from Carolina in a while.
2) Steve Smith. He didnt break his arm, which is good, I guess.
3) Linebackers. Jon Beason, who hasnt had a bad game since the 7th grade, played well like he usually does. And Jon Connor! Tell me about a guy who was all over the field; 55 almost looked like Dan Morgan out there (cue nostalgia) running around. Maybe the absence of Thomas Davis won't be as detrimental as previously thought.
4) We play the Buccaneers next week (I'm not even sure if I spelled that right.....remember when they were one of the most feared teams in the league? Yeah, neither do I. Jeff Garcia is waiting anxiously by his cell phone).
5) Matt Moore can pull off the eye black. And even more importantly, it was beautiful to see a quarterback who could make plays with his legs.
There you go. I'm still on the fence about the D-Line (although Greg Hardy is an absolute steal). As for the receivers, I'm waiting for a certain receiver out of USC to explode. We'll see if we can manage more than one touchdown against a below-average Bucs defense next week, in front of the home crowd.
You are probably wondering why I left out essentially all of Matt Moore's play. I figured that there is enough talk about that already, and I dont need to mention anything that has been said previously already. Talk about that amongst yourselves. Don't panic, Panther fans--week 1 can be deceiving. Tampa Bay should be a nice confidence booster for the running game, Moore, and any other receiver who isn't named Steve Smith. If things go poorly next week....well, the emergency exits are in aisle 4.