Panthers Problems are Correctable...This Season

I actually grabbed the text from this post from a comment put forth by N Spicer (Neil), a long-time CSR member that puts forth good stuff when he can. I've tried to add him as an Author for CSR but he's playing  hard to get. If you like what he's written please let him know.

Neil Spicer and his latest Two Cents:

To win in this league, I believe...

…You’ve got to win 2 out of the 3 phases of the game. That means two of your match-ups on offense vs. the other team’s defense, your defense vs. their offense, or your special teams has to come through for you all day long. In regards to the Panthers, our offense did its job. They won their match-up and more than held their own. Yes, there were offensive penalties that stalled things for them a few times, but that happens to every team that isn’t the New England Patriots or Green Bay Packers. You’re pretty much always going to have to punt it away at some point.

For me, the Panthers fell through in the other two phases of the game. The defense did a decent job, just not decent enough. Kolb bought enough time to avoid our pass rush and find his open man. Their coaching staff called a smart game and had a decent game plan in place (offensively-speaking) and where things broke down, Kolb extended plays or made the smart read. Defensively, our guys had some serious blown assignments (i.e., the Jeff King TD and the Early Doucet TD). Those were both killers in terms of our defensive "momentum" and chances to control the game. So, to me, we lost the battle on defense. That’s one of the significant phases of the game.

Neil makes some good points...after the jump...

 

Of course, the special teams botched things pretty royally there at the end, too. Even with the defense holding well enough to keep the score tied, the punt coverage team blew any chance of bailing them out. To the contrary, they let a rookie known for being a dynamic punt returner in college cleanly field a ball that should have been a fair catch situation and take off up field with only about seven or eight guys to beat because at least three or four of them ran past him or were already out of position to contain his run back opportunity. Thus, we lost this phase of the game in dramatic fashion, as well. And sometimes, that’s all it takes. A few big plays or mental breakdowns and you’re staring a loss in the face rather than a win.

If you add that up, the Panthers offense posted 21 points (which is significantly better than our woeful average last year). But the defense gave up 14 easy points they shouldn’t have and the special teams gave up 7 more which they shouldn’t have. Even if two of those TDs could have been held to FGs, the Panthers would have pulled this one out. And maybe just one of them, considering Cam could have led the Panthers to a tying FG to force overtime rather than needing a tying TD.

So, if we’re assigning blame for the loss—and I think we are—I don’t believe it lies with just the penalties. It’s primarily the two phases of the game where the defense and special teams let us down. Now, despite that, I think we have two positives we can take from this game:

1) The offense looked MUCH better than anyone thought they would. Cam is maturing before our very eyes into a capable NFL QB and it only took one game and a handful of abbreviated preseason experiences to accomplish that. I think his whole process of growing into the role (as well as his natural charisma and leadership) is energizing the guys on the offense. You can see that in Steve Smith’s re-invigoration. You can hear it in Jordan Gross talking about how inspiring it is to play with Newton, because the kid hasn’t even scratched all his potential yet. You can see it in Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen’s eagerness to give Cam some sure hands over the middle. I also think the WRs (especially the younger ones) can draw inspiration from Cam’s maturation process to work that much harder for themselves so they can do the same. All in all, the future looks a lot brighter here than anyone could have initially imagined. Some of that might dim as we go up against the Superbowl champion Packers next Sunday, but for now, you get the immediate sense there’s more things "right" on offense now than "wrong."

2) The problems on defense and special teams can be corrected. The coaches will have plenty of fodder for lighting a fire under these units to improve. After all, if Cam can show as much improvement as he has playing under center as a rookie QB with everyone questioning his ability, why can’t the veterans on defense and new players on special teams study their film and do the same? Sure, we’ve lost Jon Beason for the year. But Dan Connor actually led the team in tackles this past week after coming off the bench. We’ve still got plenty of leadership in Thomas Davis. And problems at the DT and nickel CB positions may get addressed real soon (with a new free agent signing and the possibility of Darius Butler taking the field). Add to that some focused study and practice time for the special teams guys and, even if you just marginally improve in these areas, you can see the Panthers have a chance to take one of those other phases of the game in their upcoming matchups. I don’t expect them to beat Green Bay. And, they still may not win more than 6 games this year. Regardless, that’s a lot better than 2-14. We’ve also got most of our core players locked up and ready to return next year. We’ll have another draft to improve the roster. And we could be looking at a quick turnaround for Ron Rivera’s coaching regime similar to the way John Fox turned things around after taking over for George Siefert. It’s definitely a rebuilding process, but I think we laid a significant "foundation" for our future in the way Cam Newton handled himself and the offense this weekend.

Thus, we may have lost the battle against Arizona due to some deficiencies on defense and special teams. But we haven’t lost the war yet. And I’m not just talking about a war against the opposing teams on our schedule. I’m talking about the war against ourselves. To be better than we were before with many of the same personnel as last year, only a year improved, with a totally new scheme on offense and defense that we can already see paying dividends. I look for good things in the weeks ahead, and especially next season when the game slows down that much more for our rookies and new starters. And, yes, if we can clean up some of those penalty yards we gave up, that can certainly help, too. ;-)

But that’s just my two cents,
—Neil

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