The hardest thing to do is let someone try and fail. That's what Mike Shula finally did with Cam Newton, as the overly-conservative offensive coordinator let his franchise QB throw away the sheet music and finally play jazz. It wasn't always pretty, as Newton threw some ugly passes and a bad interception -- but the result was a 38-point Panthers' victory and good will carrying into the bye week.
Ultimately this was an 0-3 team beating another 0-3 team and it's safe to say most of us under-estimated how bad New York's offensive line was. The Giants' problem is that they under-estimated how good Carolina's defensive front is. Greg Hardy (finally) had a field day. Any time you get that much pressure up front you should win, but the Panthers have collapsed far too often in the past. It was beautiful to finally see them step on a team's neck.
Glass half full...
Are you kidding me? Finally Cam is allowed to be Cam. Yesterday's game was a return to 2011 where Newton had the option to attack the Giants as he saw fit. There were times he used his legs, sometimes he went with the arm, and other times he struggled -- but none of it mattered.
To coach Cam Newton is to coach with guts. Straddle the line of success and failure and put the team in the hands of a young man who will give you time you want to hang your head in shame. Here's the thing though: He'll also pull you out of it, provided he gets a time bit of support.
That's what happened on Sunday as Newton looked scatter-shot early, threw a terrible interception, then settled into his most dominant performance in two years. The deep pass is Cam's safety blanket, and you can't say that about any other NFL quarterback.
Steve Smith's injury in the first half sparked something in Cam. Standing over the veteran receiver seemed to open his eyes that there might be a time where he wont have the pint-sized playmaker. When Newton returned to the huddle he started to trust his receivers, and they rewarded him in kind. Brandon LaFell was sensational in the red zone, and played the kind of game I suspect will look even better on All-22 later this week.
That defense, hoo boy that defense. Look down for a second and you'd likely hear a sack, casting your eyes on the TV to see Eli Manning in the fetal position. Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short -- everybody was fantastic.
Glass half empty...
Oh no. This is that thing where Ron Rivera lulls us into a false sense of security, only to pull out the rug. Panthers lost two out of the bye in 2011, they lose two following the bye in 2012 -- time is the enemy of Ron Rivera, who will over-think everything in the next week.
The Panthers beat a really bad team after losing to a really good one and a mediocre one. At this point they're the New York Jets. Do you think the Jets are going to the playoffs? Now ask yourself if the Panthers will.
It's hard to have much faith in this coaching staff truly learning from their mistakes. Fool me once shame on you, fool me 30 times in three years -- I need a drink.
The worst thing that could happen is to see this team turn everything around and win a lot this year. It's unlikely, but there still needs to be some new blood in the coaching staff. Remember: There's a reason we're talking about Carolina winning because the coaches removed themselves from the game, that's important.
Who are the Carolina Panthers? They are as good as the length of rope Cam Newton is given. It's time to let the quarterback put this team on his back, for better and worse. There are going to be times he makes us scream, but just as many where we'll cry for joy. If nothing else football will be fun again, and that's something -- that's important.
Relish in the victory, relish in 38-0. There's two weeks of tape to watch and touchdowns to re-visit, then we get back into the season. A win couldn't have come at a better time.