While not the most pivotal play in the game, Chris Gamble rarely gets photo ops. I have to make sure he gets his chance in the spotlight (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
A win is a win, right? Despite doing their best to beat themselves the Carolina Panthers managed to prevail and pass 2010's win total in Indianapolis. While there were some absolutely shocking moments in this game the team managed to keep the Colts at arm's length, make critical plays down the stretch and seal the victory. This was yet another chapter in the 2011 Panthers season where the motto is 'stupid big plays' and really all yesterday's game came down to was three critical and stupid plays that kept the Colts in it.
1) 42 yard pass interference by Captain Munnerlyn
2) Donald Brown almost untouched TD run
Those two TD plays accounted for 23% of the Colts' entire offense on Sunday. With the exception of those two plays they only managed to average 4.6 yards of offense per offensive play, but yet again we are faced with bad and ultimately costly decisions playing a huge part in the margin of winning and losing. Fortunately these areas will be corrected in time, but for now it can be frustrating to say the least.
This morning isn't about frustration, doom and gloom, however, so let's get to some happier tidings as we talk about what went right in the win against the Colts and what needs to be improved on.
More after the jump
Double Trouble- Extremely Optimistic Leading the charge this week is DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Honestly, how could we not give this rating to the two running backs? Stewart got the hard yards, Williams punched it in and it was poetry in motion for much of the game. When we combine their efforts we have 25 carries for 139 yards and 2 TDs.
Chris Gamble- Extremely Optimistic I can almost smell the All-Pro snub coming for Chris Gamble who's having as good a season as any CB in the NFL, but without any of the kudos. Integral in taking Pierre Garcon out of the game he shut down whichever receiver he was covering and made a critical late INT to help shut the door. It was a great game by Gamble... again.
Kealoha Pilares- Extremely Optimistic For the second week in a row he breaks a big one with a 76 yards return. Being a KR/PR isn't as easy as it appears, as there's more to it than just 'run fast in a straight line'. Was there more Pilares could have done to take it to the house? Maybe, but he'll learn about the angles players will take on coverage and how to beat them. Definitely not enough to knock him too much.
Jordan Senn- Extremely Optimistic While he didn't have a flashy game, he did have a surprisingly effective one. Not only did Senn tie the team in tackles with 10, he also did a great job dropping back in coverage and taking away the passing lanes to Jacob Tamme who was held to only three targets. It wouldn't surprise me if he gets the nod for the rest of the season.
Brandon LaFell- Extremely Optimistic He makes big plays week in, week out. It's only a matter of time before he takes over the starting spot. The question is "Why hasn't it already happened?"
Charles Godfrey- Extremely Optimistic Lost in the shuffle of the Martin INT was the man who caused it. Charles Godfrey had a good day yesterday with a big sack and the aforementioned tip which led to the interception.
Cam Newton- Somewhat Optimistic I'll acknowledge this is a classic case of high expectations, but regardless Newton probably could have done more yesterday, which keeps him from the highest grade. It's refreshing to see a 95 rated, 1 rushing TD game as 'not quite enough', but there are still things Cam needs to work on. He needs to step up in the pocket more when passing and needs to get more comfortable passing with bodies around him. While his ability to escape this rush is one of his biggest assets if he leaves early it puts tremendous pressure on the tackles, especially facing speedy DE's like Freeney and Mathis.
Steve Smith- Somewhat Optimistic Not much to dislike about Smitty's game other than two bad penalties on holding and then pass interference. That was the only thing that kept him bad a little this week.
Armanti Edwards- Somewhat Optimistic Showed promise on his PR, pity it was called back.
Captain Munnerlyn- Extremely Pessimistic I understand he's being played out of position, I get that he needs to be a nickel and not a starting corner. That being said, running into Reggie Wayne without taking your eyes off him for a second is inexcusable. That 42 yard gain was a huge momentum shift in the first half and the mistakes snowballed from that one play. Watching the ball in the air in cornerbacking-101.
Defensive Tackles- Extremely Pessimistic No point flogging a dead horse here, we know they've hit the rookie wall as does Ron Rivera. Just have to let it play out at this point.
Sherrod Martin- Somewhat Pessimistic Dodged the bullet of being 'extremely' here by securing the late INT. That being said, we wouldn't have needed that late INT if he had managed to tackle Reggie Wayne so it's not quite tit-for-tat. As it stands he's playing his way into being replaced in April, and that's disappointing because he played well in 2010.
While yesterday's game may not be something to build on, it was an important win and a good way to get the road win-less monkey off the Panthers' backs. There are some soft spots in the remaining schedule to make this respectable. While I doubt we'll go 6-10 as I predicted before the season, I do think we can finish with at least one more win.
The Panthers face Tampa Bay next who are reeling a little after a strong start. Anything is possible next week, hopefully we can put it together again.
55% optimistic heading into the game vs the Bucs