As I read through the Panthers post-game quotes and interviews from their opening game loss to the Bucs I think I detected a common theme. No one from the coaches to the players seem to be in a panic over this loss. I think the better word might be 'disgust' but at the same time they claim to have not lost their focus even if they lost their lunch.
Now I'm sure of you reading this will panic at this notion the Panthers coaches and players might 'shrug it off'. It's actually a sign of maturity whether you agree with it or not. To panic after only one game and start planning anew is actually a formula for further and deeper disaster. So I implore you Panther fans to have patience. Yes we have a tough stretch to go over the next four games because though the Bucs proved to be better than advertised I think we saw a could other teams on our early schedule struggle Sunday too (Saints & Giants).
If you won't take my word for it then how about we consult with the Rules & Regulations:
Sloppy start, but Panthers not finished
"Sixteen teams are going to lose their first game," Smith said. "The Super Bowl champs lost, and we lost. So what does that mean? That means everybody has to get back to work."
That's right, 15 other teams started with a loss and most of them still have a shot at the playoffs. Actually as it turns out...they all do. So instead of moping with a towel on out head (pun intended) let's listen and see if the Panthers learned anything. How about our Head Coach, how did he see it?
"More than anything else, we had a couple of one-on-ones that we flat-out lost. The encouraging part is that can be corrected," Rivera said. "It wasn't anything schematically or something lacking in an individual; it was a player here, a player there and something that they did. I'm comfortable that we'll be able to correct and improve and get better."
Execution baby, all 22 have to do it. The difference between winning and losing is a fine line in the NFL. One guy loses his one-on-one (and I can think of few from that game) and the play can go from good to disaster. I might also point out that Rivera is essentially acknowledging that the coaching got played at times too when he says 'and something they did'. I think we can all agree the offensive game left something to be desired, in the first half especially.
More after the jump...
Need more specifics? QB Cam Newton certainly had his bad moments, one of which he deemed 'disgusting':
Newton frustrated by interceptions
"The second (interception) was more disgusting," Newton said. "I hung the football up there. They were in man-to-man with a safety over the top. The safety was reading my eyes, so it’s bound to happen."
Meaning he failed to adequately look off or pump fake the safety. Just the fact he knows he did it is half the battle. Plus the fact he lofted the ball too much. A little more zip and it travels the needed extra 4 yds and its complete. It's a game of inches sometimes.
There is plenty to be happy about Panther fans. The obvious is the defense, who after giving up 13 points in the first half came out and held the Bucs to 3 points. LB's Jon Beason and Thomas Davis were on the field again and they were flat out making plays:
Beason, Davis make difference
"For the most part I did a pretty good job, but individually I feel like there were some plays I left out there on the field where I could have affected the game more," said Beason, who recorded a game-high 10 tackles. "It's unfortunate we didn't pull this off like I thought we were in position to. They made the plays when they had to and they got the victory, so hats off to them."
Add in the fact newly acquired DT Dwan Edwards played big and DE Greg hardy also contributed and there is plenty to be hopeful about. Let me put it another way.
If you had to pick either the offense or defense in need of seriously elevating their game from week 1 which would it be? I would have a lot more confidence that our offense can turn things around versus the other way around. In spite of how poorly the Panthers played for most of the game they were only a couple plays away from stealing a victory in a game they ha no business winning.
One last positive factor is that a blocked punt aside special teams played well. They covered kicks well and Joe Adams was mistake free (though it was close once) and he had a 21 yard punt return to set up the offense nicely in Buc territory.