With 11 days to sulk after our Thursday night beat-down by the Saints, we've had the chance to experience the drama of "Cam Newton week" (coined by CP). But I'm starting to wonder, "why should Cam Newton have all the fun?" We have another face of the franchise, and he's basically getting off scott-free...
Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis, even Bobby Wagner have all gotten their teams to a Super Bowl. Where has Kuechly gotten us? One playoff loss so far in 3 years. We were 7-9 his rookie year. We did jump to 12-4 his sophomore season, but that's after we put a 1st AND a 2nd round pick on the field in front of him. Then we started practicing high efficiency and heavy ball control on offense, keeping the other team's offense off the field, and our defense from getting exposed.
Now that the offense is struggling now this year, the defense is getting fully exposed. So Luke was 7-9...add Star and Short and he goes to 12-4...take away Greg Hardy and he's 2-5-1 this year. An elite MLB should be elevating the play of the rest of the players on his defense. But without key players in front of him, Luke's defense goes from #2 to #30.
Forget giving up 21 points a game, we've given up 21 points in a quarter...twice. Jerry Rice and Joe Montana couldn't dig out of those holes. Much less Cam Newton plus Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant.
Sure he keeps racking up tackles, but where's the wins? Tackle stats are for fantasy football, but it's the wins that count. Where's the INTs Luke? And only 1 forced fumble in 3 years? We need more game changing plays.
Luke has a 1st rounder and two 2nd rounders playing in front of him, as well as a first rounder playing at an all-pro level beside him. (Cam could only dream of having that type of supporting cast). Saying he has a poor secondary is just an excuse, as he should be good enough to elevate the play of his teammates around him. Did Clay Matthews have an elite secondary when he led the Packers to the Super Bowl? How about Teddy Bruschi? Notice the Patriots and Ravens haven't won a Super Bowl since Teddy and Ray retired. A franchise LB can carry an entire team, Tom Brady and Joe Flacco cannot.
Luke's play has clearly been regressing. Teams are routinely breaking off 50+ yard runs against us, even the fullback of the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Le'veon Bell torched Luke, and the MLB missed gap assignments all night against the Steelers. The Ravens ran in, around, and out of several of Kuechly's tackles...with their back-up RBs. We won't talk about what Giovanni Bernard did to this team. Eddie Lacy? Yeah he had a big day too. And Mark Ingram went from 1st round bust to a 100 yard game last Thursday night against the Panthers.
Frankly, the Panthers are tied for dead last in opponent's yards per carry(4.8). Heck the other team doesn't even need to throw the ball or get to 3rd down. Two running plays essentially gets you a first down against the Panthers. They are next to last in rushing TDs given up this year (11), only ahead of the mighty defense fielded by the Atlanta Falcons (13). Shouldn't a franchise MLB lead his team to perform better against the run?
The Saints game was ugly. Then to start the 3rd quarter, Cam Netwon elevates his play like the franchise QB he is, and wills his team 80 yards down the field for a TD, capped of by a Superman dive over the pylon 6 yards out from the endzone. The score was 14-7. The offense was clearly heating up and would tie the game if they got the ball back. Sad thing is, they couldn't get the ball back. The Panthers defense gave up their own 80 yard TD drive, complete with Drew Brees sticking the ball over the goalline on a 4th down for a rushing TD.
On the field intelligence:
Shouldn't a true franchise MLB have seen that play coming...Brees sticking the ball out over the goal line on 4th and 1? How about when Jimmy Graham was split out wide against rookie Tre Boston? A true franchise MLB should be cereberal enough to call a timeout there. Same with when Graham was motioned out against Melvin White on the goalline. An elite MLB like Ray Lewis would have audibled and made sure his defense was in the right position to stop such an obvious play. If I could sit home and watch that play unfold knowing what was about to happen, I would expect my team's MLB to have the football IQ to do the same.
When's the last time you've seen Luke getting in a player's face? Giving out a butt-chewing or a motivational speech? Why does TD have to be the enforcer on the team? Why is Josh Norman the one to provide the spark in Mike Mitchell's absence? I'm starting to question Luke's leadership. He's spending much more time this year doing commercials, and not enough time studying Drew Brees's offensive tendencies.
Should we eventually pay Luke elite MLB money, when good LBs like Bobby Wagner, Mychal Kendricks, and Levonte David were found in the second round? So while we have taken time this week to point fingers at Superman for the Panthers' woes...should we be pointing some at Clark Kent too?
/end imaginary sarcasm font... (but it is some food for thought, and perhaps a lesson in perceptions)