Carolina Panthers Monday Morning Optimist: 9/26/11

Good morning Panther faithful and welcome to the Monday Morning Optimist.

What can we really say about yesterday's game? It was a complete and utter debacle, but it was our debacle. For three quarters of the game neither the Carolina Panthers, nor the Jacksonville Jaguars deserved to win. While the Jags technically had a TD, it really wasn't one that showed any particular ability or skill, a late pass against a prevent defense with players sliding all over the field because of the rain. After the Panthers found themselves in the lead early the Jaguars stumbled in front before halftime and by the end of the game Cam Newton and the Panthers finally remembered they could play and went out and won the game.

It was a game where literally nothing was going the Panthers' way for about 55 minutes out of 60. Despite the Jaguars fumbling the ball five times they recovered all of them, a huge Jonathan Stewart gain was overturned on some curious 'conclusive evidence' and the weather did its best to play to Jacksonville's strengths, as it turned Bank of America Stadium into a swimming pool that favored a running game and dissuaded a passing game. However, despite all this the Panthers managed to win. They went against the odds, fought against the cards stacked against them, and the team trusted in Cam Newton to deliver when it was most important... and he did.

More after the jump

Based on yesterday's game what do you rate Cam Newton? Should he be in the pessimistic column because he did nothing for three quarters? Should we be optimistic because he came through in the 4th quarter and won the game? 

The truth is both, and neither. Cam Newton doesn't get a grade for yesterday's game because I feel that he falls right in the middle. Rookie QBs will have these up and down games, it just so happened that we saw two great performances early which brings performance three down to earth. We used to characterize Jake Delhomme with a 'good Jake, bad Jake' moniker to indicate his inconsistency, but on Sunday it was Cam Newton who played both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Look no further than his game breakdown to see this: 

1st, 2nd, 3rd quarter: 13/28, 80 yards 

4th quarter: 5/7, 78 yards, 1 TD

When it mattered Cam Newton stepped up. He failed a lot of Sunday as he sailed passes, missed open receivers and made ill advised passes, but when the chips were down he won the game for the Panthers. 

 

Optimistic

 

Greg Hardy, Extremely Optimistic It's impossible to not like what you saw from Greg Hardy yesterday. He started the game by setting the tone with a huge safety, and throughout the game was consistently getting into the backfield and being disruptive. Not much more to say other than an excellent day for the Kraken.

Jason Williams, Extremely Optimistic Stepping in for Thomas Davis is an unenviable task, but Williams did so brilliantly. He was far better in coverage than we'd seen in the past and he was instrumental in several important 3rd down stops. Finished with 8 tackles, played great.

Charles Johnson, Extremely Optimistic Big money, big impact. Three sacks in as many games for CJ, and he's always testing his opposing number. Just another great game for the big man.

James Anderson, Extremely Optimistic While he had a few bad misses here and there, really the conditions made tackling very difficult. As the game went on, much like Cam Newton it was James Anderson who stepped up and became a difference maker on defense.

Jonathan Stewart, Extremely Optimistic Simply put, he needs to be starting. Like Cam Newton he is better at improvising and picking up whatever yards are possible when the blocking breaks down. When this is coupled with Stewart looking to be the better receiver out of the backfield it become difficult to justify him sitting.

Greg Olsen, Somewhat Optimistic Despite one bad drop Greg Olsen played a very solid game. He doesn't quite get the highest marks because he route running wasn't quite as good as we've seen in the past.

Terrell McClain, Somewhat Optimistic Though he missed his gap on a few occasions, overall the Panthers third round pick had a pretty solid day.

Darius Butler, Somewhat Optimistic Butler didn't get on the field a ton on Sunday, but when he did he played very well.

 

Pessimistic

 

DeAngelo Williams, Extremely Pessimistic While I'll admit Williams didn't get many chances on Sunday, he also did almost nothing with the chances he had. Finishing with a poor 1.8 YPC. It was just a bad game for DeAngelo.

Steve Smith, Extremely Pessimistic Cam couldn't get Smitty the ball, but Steve Smith didn't do much to get separation from Rashean Mathis. After his performance last week against Charles Woodson he should have dominated this matchup, but for much of the game he was shut down.

Sherrod Martin, Somewhat Pessimistic Despite getting a wide open INT he struggled for much of the game. With Charles Godfrey out it was incumbent upon Martin to step up and fill the void... he failed to do so.

 

Overall

A win is a win, even if it's an ugly win. Cam Newton didn't play well, but he played well enough when it counted to get the Panthers a W. This is important for several reasons, but mostly because last year when we were utilizing Clausen at QB we never had the opportunity to shut the door on a close game and see it come to fruition. If there's one thing that spoiled us about the Jake Delhomme era at QB it was an innate ability to play like garbage for most of the game, only to pull out a victory at the last second. I'm not saying Cam Newton is Jake Delhomme by any means, but it was nice to see that same kind of moxie from him. Maybe it's a coincidence... but the last time I saw a 4th quarter victory over the Jaguars was in 2003 when Jake Delhomme threw to Ricky Proehl for the TD, it was a nice memory to bring back on Sunday.

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