Carolina Panthers Monday Morning Optimist- 10/3/11

Happy Monday Panthers' fans!

I understand that yesterday's game was a sobering experience, but unfortunately those losses will happen. Heading into any given week there are two kinds of expectations- there are reasonable expectations that call for the team playing up to their potential, and there are unrealistic expectations that cause fans to feel a team should transcend their potential and win regardless of personnel. 

On Sunday there were some reasonable expectations that were met, and some that weren't. Concurrently, there were numerous times the Panthers exceeded their talent and fulfilled for unreasonable expectations, but there were others they couldn't possibly match.

When the dust settled it was a few dumb mistakes here and there that led to a Bears' victory. Is it annoying? Absolutely, but a young team like this learning complex schemes is going to have those issues. The margin of error ended up being so small yesterday that it was lost in the shuffle that without the FG being blocked the Panthers were a 2pt conversion away from overtime. Personally, that's a huge step for a 2-14 team in 2010 to contend and push a 10+ win team to the limit.

More after the jump

One phrase I keep hearing is something to the effect of "I'm tired of moral victories" and while I understand the sentiment, really it's pretty useless in the long run. We only have one tangible victory, that wont change by wishing. So there are two things you can do: Focus on the positive and see the huge leaps this franchise is making, or ignore them because the standings aren't favorable and continue to be frustrated. Personally, I'm sticking with the former even though we've only had four wins in twenty chances.

As I said, there were numerous times that small mistakes were the difference between winning and losing:

 

  1. Soldier Field is properly maintained and Brandon LaFell doesn't slip on an open TD pass = Panthers win
  2. Referees don't call a phantom PI call on Shockey touchdown = Panthers win
  3. Naanee catches a high pass that went through his hands for a pick 6 = Panthers win
  4. Olindo Mare doesn't line drive a FG = Panthers have chance to tie 
Does it hurt? Sure... but the Panthers were just a few small differences short of pulling off the upset. We're talking about a team missing two starting linebackers, without their #1 cornerback and starting two rookie DTs, there was no reason this game should have been close unless you're putting too much stock in unreasonable expectations.

Optimistic
Cam Newton- Extremely Optimistic What can we say about Cam Newton's game other than it being another extraordinary performance. Now we're starting to see skeptics acknowledge that he could be the 'real deal'. On Sunday he completed 59% of his passes, threw for over 350 yards while throwing for a TD and running in another two. Cam Newton alone is enough reason to be excited for the future.

Offensive Line- Extremely Optimistic The offensive line played absolutely brilliantly on Sunday in both phases of the game despite facing an extremely stout defensive front in Chicago. Sure, the organization and clock management could have been better in the 2nd quarter, but it's hard to fault them for that.

Double Trouble- Extremely Optimistic They're baaaack! Hard not to like what you saw from the running game. They had more pop, hit the holes harder and ran stronger. 

Steve Smith- Extremely Optimistic Smitty was a beast... nothing more to say really.

Pessimistic
Legedu Naanee- Extremely Pessimistic I don't blame Cam for throwing to the open receiver, but boy is Naanee bad when he's open. I still don't really understand the obsession with him because he's been terrible for most of the year. Target after target... he just doesn't make enough plays, or any plays for that matter.

Special Teams- Extremely Pessimistic This includes all phases of the special teams. Olindo Mare should be getting more touchbacks, Baker should be punting it further, and on coverage they should be doing everything better. A blocked FG was the icing on the cake.

Run defense- Extremely Pessimistic Give me a break... the run defense was absolutely terrible leading to the biggest game of Matt Forte's career. They allowed 7.2 yards per carry and veterans like James Anderson and Charles Godfrey took bad angles. It was just unacceptable.

Overall Outlook
A young team made some young mistakes and a veteran team capitalized... that's all there is to it. Time heals all wounds, and the stinging of this one will fade in time.
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