Maybe black cats are not bad luck after all.
Despite winning the award for best NFL uniforms of all time, the black on black jersey/pants combination has not been good luck for the Carolina Panthers. Prior to this game, the "black cat" look produced 2 losses by a total of 50-23. For the superstitious and pessimistic Panthers fans, the black pants appeared to bring out the worst, though they looked their best.
That all changed with today’s game.
In the "blackout" uniforms, the Carolina Panthers dominated the New York Jets today, winning by a score of 30-20. The game was in contention for the majority of the time, but a blocked punt and a "pick-6" would put New York away in the 4th quarter. Going up against one of the league’s best defenses, the Panthers would ride DeAngelo Williams, with his 81 yards rushing and and 87 yards receiving, to victory.
Despite comments from Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes stating that the Panthers secondary is the "weak link of the defense," this back end would make a huge difference in the game. Captain Munnerlyn’s interception for a touchdown late in the game put the game of reach and deflated all hope of a Jets comeback.
Cam Newton had a "ho-hum" game, tossing 273 yards, running for 12, and passing for a touchdown. Most notable was a foot injury he sustained at the end of the first half, which visibly hampered him for the rest of the game. He would not miss any plays, and was still able to direct a couple scoring drives. His injury is one to monitor for the rest of the week.
The Turning Point: With the Panthers up 16-6, and driving in Jets territory, head coach Ron Rivera decided to go for it on 4th down and 2. They were unsuccessful, and the Jets turned around and scored a touchdown with DT Sheldon Richardson, closing the gap to 16-13. stealing all the momentum.
On the very next drive, two holding penalties would force the Panthers into a 1st down and 30 that they could not overcome. This would result in a punt to the Jets with the opportunity to tie or take the lead.
Not only would the Panthers force a 3 and out, but on 4th down, backup linebacker and late season special teams addition Jason Williams went untouched and blocked a Ryan Quigley punt. This gave the Panthers possession on the Jets 14, and RB Mike Tolbert would run it in to the Panthers up, 23-13. This would be a deficit that the Jets would not be able to surmount.
The Good: Despite a "slow" day on offense, the Panthers were still able to put up 30 points on a strong defense of the New York Jets. While a blocked punt and a "pick 6" can be thanked, the Panthers offense can also thank a couple of big plays, which has been rare as of late. Deep passes to Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen kept the Panthers moving all game. And the 72 yard touchdown reception by DeAngelo Williams occurred when the team needed it the most. Though they stalled in the red zone more times that fans would have liked, the Panthers had enough big plays to overcome those struggles.
The Bad: While a comfortable win is welcomed by Panthers fans, there were still plenty of flaws that this team still needs to correct if they hope to beat the Saints and make a deep playoff run. I will focus on two.
First, for an anemic Jets offense led by a rookie quarterback, it is quite concerning to see the vaunted Panthers defense gashed by the visitors. The Jets appeared to run with ease, and the defense gave up more rushing yards than average by the time they had hit the second quarter. In the passing game, Geno Smith only completed 167 yards. But for the most part, completions appeared to go to wide open receivers. This was a serious problem last week in New Orleans, and has not yet appeared to be fixed.
Second, the Panthers’ dazzling red zone offense that scored touchdowns at a higher rate than any other team in the league continues to stall. Last week, Carolina started fast, but was only able to come away with two field goals. The same would happen this week, as a fast start looked meek with only 2 field goals to show for it. Later in the 3rd quarter, Rivera and the Panthers would go for it on 4th down and 2 to go, up 13-3, but failed to convert. This was supposed to be a strength of the Panthers, and their red zone struggles of late has me mildly concerned.
Panthers Offensive MVP: Running back DeAngelo Williams. It sure is nice to award someone other than Cam Newton for once. Against the second best rushing defense in the league (second only to the Panthers), Williams had an incredible performance. His 72 yard screen pass and run broke the game open for the Panthers and keep them comfortable for the majority of the game. He would finish with 81 rushing yards on 15 carries, 87 receiving yards on 3 receptions, and a touchdown to boot. Like I mentioned on Twitter, it was this time last year that he started to heat up. The Panthers could use another hot performance from him against the Saints next week.
Panthers Defensive MVP: Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn sure has gotten beaten up by the CSR community for his shortcomings in coverage, but never in heart. This undersized late-round pick came up large today. With two sacks and multiple pressures on Geno Smith, the Jets rookie quarterback seemed rattled early. And when just when you thought he could not ruin Smith’s day anymore, Munnerlyn intercepted him for a touchdown. This "pick-6" would give him five for his career, a franchise record.
Other Panthers Who Starred: Newton, Tolbert, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, Jr., Greg Olsen, Greg Hardy, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, J. Williams, Graham Gano
Panthers Who Struggled: Melvin White
Notable injuries: Cam Newton appeared to sprain his ankle, but stayed in the game. Greg Hardy missed a few plays due to cramps, but was not serious.
Tweet of the game:
Following a touchdown by Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, some took to Twitter to voice their opinions.
If Tolbert is the Tugboat, Richardson is the Carrier— Colin Hoggard (@ColinWFNZ) December 15, 2013
Maybe the #Panthers will answer with a Star Lotulelei carry.— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) December 15, 2013
GIF of the game:
In his touchdown attempt, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was absolutely stuffed by linebacker Luke Kuechly.
courtesy of SBNationGIF
It’s perhaps the most anticipated NFL rematch of the year, as the Panthers welcome Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to Bank of America Stadium. The Saints were dominated again today on the road, this time by the St. Louis Rams. With the Saints suffering from severe road woes this year, the Panthers have got to be licking their chops in the hopes of avenging their loss two weeks ago.
Stay tuned for more analysis...This is Now an Open Thread!