Greetings Panthers fans!
Another week is in the books, and the Panthers suffered yet another oh so close loss at the hands of the defending champion Packers, but there was still a lot of positives to take from the game even though the Panthers fell a touchdown short on the scoreboard.
Last Friday I brought up five things that we should look for in the game against Green Bay, and after the jump we'll take a closer look at my thoughts from last Friday and see how well they matched up with reality.
Now, if you would be so inclined, please join me after the jump...
Last Friday, I said that the Panthers would look to use Shockey, Olsen, and Goodson in various formations to take some of the pressure off of Cam, and I was pretty surprised to see that they didn't use Goodson at all, and barely used Olsen and Shockey (they combined for 4 receptions -- Shockey had 3 and Olsen had 1) even though the few times they were used the plays were successful.
What surprised me the most about the game plan was the use of Jonathan Stewart as a receiver out of the backfield. I figured that Goodson would be used since catching the ball in open space and gaining positive yards after the catch is supposed to be his forte, but apparently the coaching staff knew something we didn't as I've never seen Stewart get 100 receiving yards in a single game. (But, I liked it.)
Not Too Far Off
Once again, I was wrong about Cam Newton's performance against the Packers, but I wasn't as far off in my prediction this week as I was last week. In my Friday Five segment, I said:
I don't believe that Cam is going to have another 400 yard passing day like he did against the Cardinals, but I think he'll have moderate success against Green Bay because they are going to have to respect both his passing ability and his running ability. It's going to be hard to shut him down completely, so I do think he will throw for around 225 yards and will have a touchdown or two. Sure, he'll probably throw a few interceptions, but if he can limit his mistakes and prevent making them in critical situations the Panthers will have a chance to pull out the upset.
Not only did Cam throw for over 400 yards again, but he threw for more yards than he did against the Cardinals' "weak secondary". Granted, I was right about Cam throwing a few interceptions, but overall the Packers weren't able to shut him down, and any time a quarterback throws for over 400 yards it can't be considered a "moderate success".
I was also somewhat wrong about the Panthers defense. I said that it would be important for Chris Gamble to shut down Greg Jennings if the Panthers wanted to have a chance to win. While Gamble did shut down Jennings (his touchdown was on a blown coverage by the safeties), the rest of the defense let the Packers run and pass at will, getting torched on several long plays that ended up costing them the game (most notably the touchdown to Jordy Nelson after the turnover on downs in the 4th quarter).
The Panthers defense isn't terrible, but they are currently giving up too many big plays, which could be the product of a young defense learning a new scheme and the coaches trying to figure out who fits what role. Hopefully this is the case, because if the defense continues to get torched on a weekly basis, the Panthers aren't going to win very many games. It's nice that we now have an offense that can put points on the board, but you have to stop the other team from scoring on occasion too, otherwise you won't win very often unless you are the Indianapolis Colts from 1999-2010.
I Told You So
Luckily, I was able to get a few things right this week.
First, the Panthers' special teams unit came up huge in the first half of the game as they were able to force a fumble on the Packers' first kick return and turn it into 3 points, and they were able to hold Packers' kick returner Randall Cobb to pedestrian return numbers all afternoon.
The Panthers were able to contain Clay Matthews for most of the day, and Byron Bell played a great game in his first career start. Save for a few bad decisions by Cam Newton and a lucky fumble by Steve Smith that stayed in bounds, the Packers didn't do a lot defensively to the Panthers, and the mistakes that Cam made are easily correctable, so the Panthers should be pleased with the effort they put out on Sunday. I know I'm pleased that I didn't get this one wrong, because admittedly it was the one I was most worried about.
Well, that's it for this week folks. Stay tuned this Friday for the next edition of the Friday Five.