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Panthers Game 2: Handing Out the Grades

I dreaded watching this game again thinking I would come out of it thinking the Panthers were not as good as I had hoped. Watching it live it appeared after the 1st quarter Houston dominated the Panthers in all phases. The reality is that the Panthers and Texans matched up really well. It came down to the age old game decider.

Turnovers. Plain and simple.

I think the Panthers were guilty of getting comfortable with a lead they didn’t have to work hard for. Given a short field on their first possession they drove the field and scored by focusing on Smith. Two plays later Houston fumbled and the Panthers again took advantage of a short field. It was the last time the Panthers helped themselves all day.

Even after getting down 31-14 after the Goings gaffe the Panthers still had a quarter and a half to mount a comeback. The defense delivered with two three and outs. The offense rewarded their hard work with an INT by Jake and a fumble by Foster. On the INT the Panthers went to the quick out to Smith one to many times and Robinson jumped the route. They were guilty of that last year and during the preseason. On the fumble DeShaun Foster was again guilty of carrying the ball in traffic without covering up, this time at the end of a positive screen play.

The Panthers had one last gasp after the Smith long TD. Kasay hit a perfect on-side kick that both Marshall and Diggs had a chance to recover but they collided and knocked it out of bounds. On this day the Panthers couldn't take advantage of a break if it bounced up and hit them in the chest.

The Offense: D

Outside of Steve Smith there wasn’t much positive to build on. They moved the ball pretty well at times but couldn’t sustain drives. If it wasn’t because of a turnover it was a rushed throw or a sack on 3rd down. At no point did get the running game going. They had some success on throws to the RB in flat or screen plays. When Houston brought the rush we couldn’t make them pay with short passes to the TE like they did to Owen Daniel. Carter and Colbert did OK but they both had a drop. Jake made some nice throws and others he didn’t look too sharp. 21 points just isn’t going to get it in this league.

Key Question: With Kalil struggling do we put Bridges back at RG now that his suspension is over?

The Defense: C-

I think the defense played about as well as it could have for most of the game. The Texans just had a good game plan for what they thought the Panthers would do, and they were right. The Panthers couldn’t get a rush early in the game and couldn’t cover the RB, FB or TE on the short passes. Say what you will about the safeties but it seemed to me it was the LB’s who were giving up the plays. One thing I noticed is Houston and Carolina both play 4-3 defenses yet it seemed they had a safety or CB on the RB/FB out of the backfield were we usually had a LB. There must be scheme differences. The defense gave up 27 points which is not good enough but when you consider the offenses two turnovers you could argue it was a performance good enough to win if not for the offense and special teams miscues.

Key Question: Can our starting LB’s cover the skill players coming out of the backfield?

Special Teams: F

All the Panthers ask of their special teams is to not lose the game, an objective that they failed to achieve against the Texans. The Goings fumble changed this game and sucked the life out of the Panthers. Suddenly they were down 17 and all seemed lost for the moment. I don’t understand why Nick Goings is returning KO’s. He has good speed but is not elusive and therefore gets hit hard most of the time. I counted three times besides the fumble where he took hard shots. In other aspects, the kick coverage teams allowed one 40+ yard run back and didn’t produce anything on their own returns. Overall special teams continues to be a liability.

Key Question: Should Nick Goings continue to return KO’s?

Players Who Shined:

Steve Smith – 150+ yards, 3 TD’s, ‘nuff said
Travelle Wharton – Outside of one or two plays he handled Mario pretty well

Players Needing a Fire Lit:

Ryan Kalil – He got abused by his rookie counterpart Okoye on several 3rd downs
Justin Hartwig – Though he had no snap miscues this week he still had trouble moving his assignment
Julius Peppers – Yes, I’m calling out Pep. Not that he played bad but he wasn’t the playmaker we needed on this day. After a few nice plays in the 1st quarter he essentially disappeared
The LB’s – They played tight coverage in the 1st quarter but then couldn’t cover my sister later in the game.

Other Notable Items

1st Quarter
• A penalty killed Houstons’ first drive. The defense looked inspired and played tight coverage
• King made a really nice catch to keep our first drive going. We never heard from King again. What was with that?
• Outside of the fumble that resulted in our 2nd TD, Owen Daniel killed us. I think I’m seeing a trend.
• Though Andre Johnson made it look easy on his first TD but I think they should have been called for an offensive pick. The announcer saw it too but said it could have been legal. It was a pick, period.
• On 3rd and 13 we call a draw play from within our own territory? Of course we punted.

2nd Quarter
• On the Texans 2nd TD drive, they converted a fourth and 4 play and eventually scored a TD. This also the drive where Ken Luca had an INT over turned. The replays never looked conclusive to me. I thought it was a catch but I know, I’m biased. This was a key play as the Texans then scored two plays later. Also, Chris Harris over pursued on a run blitz that gave up good yardage
• On his first sack, Okoye beat a double team by Kalil and Gross
• The Texans FB Leatch is a weapon out of the back field as he caught several passes. This drive was stopped by the grounding penalty on Shaub which was one of the few times we got pressure on him
• Panthers 2 minute offense – Colbert drop, Jake fumble caused by Okoye beating Kalil, and then a bad pass. Punt.

3rd Quarter

• Panthers start with a three and out. Punt.
• On the Ahman Green rushing TD, the LB’s shifted left anticipating a run but right before the snap Beason moved outside the DE and up to the line essentially moving him out of the play.
• Goings then fumbled and the game was changed. That ball came so close to going out of bounds and I thought it was covered out of bounds by Houston.
• Jake then engineered a nice drive that stalled when Foster couldn’t get a yard on 3rd down. Why not Hoover here? I then was elated when they looked like they were going for it on 4th down but it was only a fake. Come on, does that ever work beyond high school?
• Panthers defense then forced another three and out but then Jake threw the INT. Jake did expect Smith to curl in for that pass, similar to his first catch for 20+ yards in the first drive. Smith didn’t come back and Robinson did. We’re lucky that wasn’t a TD.
• Panther De again forced a three and out but then Foster fumbled. It was a nice screen where he had already gained ten yards. How many times a RB fumble fighting for that last yard? Why not just go down?
• The Panthers D then held a long Texan drive to a FG. Nice work really.

4th Quarter

• The Panthers next drive ends on a coverage sack by the Texan secondary.
• The Panthers D produces another stop but the Texan punter puts it at the one yard line. Just our luck.
• Smith then makes his super-human play of the game, the 74 yarder where he broke free from a pack of would-be tacklers. Too little too late.
• The Panthers then boinked the perfect on-side kick and I could stand to watch no more. The stands were half empty at this point.

Overall its no time to panic. Eliminate the mistakes and we were in this game to the end. Don't think we should have blown Houston out. They are a good team mark my words.

End of Report