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Monday Morning Optimist: Perfection continues

6-0 and it feels so good!

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Last year the Panthers finished 7-8-1 and were undoubtedly one of the worst playoff teams in the NFL. Now they're just one win removed from last season's total, and it's not even Halloween yet. Your team is 6-0, and Sunday night's win over the Philadelphia Eagles was the next step in an expectation-defying season that is shaping up to be one of the most fun in memory.

This team is different. Not in construction or personnel, but in attitude. The win in Seattle over the Seahawks changed the approach of the Panthers, at least on Sunday Night Football. We're used to seeing Carolina come out flat, or at least slow -- but they went out throwing haymakers, jumping to a quick 7-0 lead on the back of strong running from Jonathan Stewart and an excellent pass to Ted Ginn.

The Eagles are a talented, but confused team. Despite being lauded for their vaunted Chip Kelly offense, the reality is that the Eagles' defense has been better this season. That showed itself in the first half with two big interceptions, one which was on a questionable Ginn catch, the other was a wholly-brilliant play by Malcolm Jenkins, who jumped a route so perfectly that Fozzy Whittaker thought he had the ball in his hands. There really wasn't much to hate on.

Defensively the Panthers really brought the heat all game long. Of course it helped that Jason Peters was forced to leave with back spasms, but there were players stepping up all over the field. Guys like Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman and Thomas Davis are known quantities -- we're talking about guys like Colin Jones and Mario Addison who made a big impact when it counted. The only real failing was Ryan Matthews long rushing touchdown that seemed to be a product of a defensive breakdown, rather than an individual failure.

The defense wasn't always perfect, but it can be forgiven due to the astounding amount of time they were on the field because of offensive failures.

The offensive line remains a happy mystery. In traditional pass protection they still struggle on five step drops, but this is a line of nasty maulers in the run game. This is working exceptionally well with the read-option offense the Panthers are leaning on at key moments. These aren't easy plays to run, or to block for -- but they're doing a really good job overall.

Side note: When was the last time Michael Oher really stood out to you? Exactly. Amazing offensive lineman leap off the screen, so do terrible ones -- it's an inverse bell curve. Oher is neither, and that's a-okay.

Sunday night was far from a perfect game, but Philadelphia is a good team and Carolina routinely lays eggs against good teams in prime-time games. That's cold comfort I know, but it's still a reality. These are games the Panthers should win, and at the end of the day it doesn't really matter how it happened.

What I liked ...

Mike Tolbert -- Extremely Optimistic

Tolbert has had a quiet season so far, but kudos to the offensive staff for recognizing there was a mismatch opportunity and leaning on it. Big Mike made the most of his touches and scored two touchdowns for his troubles. That's the mark of a great game from a fullback. It's not about getting the ball every play, it's about obliterating people when you get it.

Thomas Davis -- Extremely Optimistic

The veteran linebacker was an absolute monster on Sunday night. It wasn't just the tackles he racked up, it was how Davis flew around the field and made plays. It felt like every single defensive stop had his hands in it and FINALLY he got some love on national TV. Hopefully people will finally start to see what we've been able to watch for 11 seasons.

Jonathan Stewart -- Extremely Optimistic

This was the best rushing game we've seen from J-Stew in a long time. He showed so much power on every run, and did more of what we've been used to seeing over his career. Stewart never stops his legs moving, and has deceptive speed that we often overlook when talking about speed backs.

What I didn't like ...

Receivers, all of them -- Somewhat Pessimistic

It is what it is. We knew this unit would struggle when Kelvin Benjamin went down, and they are. On Sunday night they combined for nine catches.

What's next?

It's another prime time game, but this time against Andrew Luck and the Colts. Indianapolis is a dumpster fire right now and Luck looks like he needs to rub a rabbit foot to learn to throw a football again. This could be a trap game, but the Panthers should be able to handle it.