The Panthers did just enough yesterday afternoon to hold off the Falcons 20-17, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to be too optimistic about the game. Yeah, a win’s a win, but the Panthers looked dreadful in spots and are frankly lucky they won. If not for a extremely egregious (and rare) drop by Julio Jones in the end zone, the Panthers would be lamenting another loss to the Dirty Birds instead of celebrating a win.
There were some bright spots, like the running game finally finding something positive, but is that just because the Falcons are terrible at defending the run? Christian McCaffrey had his best game as a pro, but will the coaching staff continue to give him the football? Yesterday’s win left me with more questions than a win normally would, so while I’m glad they won I’m not very excited about it.
But, this is the MMO, so let’s take a few moments and try to find some things to celebrate from yesterday’s win.
What I liked...
Cam Newton - Very Optimistic
Newton had himself a fine afternoon yesterday. His passing stats were a little less than ideal, going 13/24 for 137 yards, but his biggest impact was on the ground. Newton picked up 86 yards on nine carries, including a great touchdown run where he posterized Desmond Trufant while reaching for the goal line. There were times the only offense the Panthers could muster was by using Newton’s legs, but thankfully that wasn’t the trend for the whole day.
Christian McCaffrey - Very Optimistic
What do you know? The Panthers finally used Christian McCaffrey the way he’s supposed to be used and they found success doing it. It’s almost like we’ve been asking them to do this all season or something. Five receptions for 28 yards with 15 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown is exactly how McCaffrey should be utilized in this offense. It was also nice to see the offensive line provide him some space to run, and it was even better to see McCaffrey take advantage of that space.
Devin Funchess - Very Optimistic
Funchess nabbed five catches for 86 yards yesterday. He didn’t find the end zone, but he had himself a good game and makes the future look bright for the Panthers offense minus Kelvin Benjamin.
Michael Palardy - Very Optimistic
When the Panthers chose Palardy over Andy Lee back at the beginning of the year I thought they were making a weird decision. Palardy has proven that decision to be the correct one, as he was booming punts all over the field yesterday. There were several times when he flipped the field and pinned the Falcons inside their own 10-yard line, which set up the defense to take care of the rest.
Mike Adams - Very Optimistic
Old man Adams had himself a good game, including a crucial interception that sparked the entire team to take over and win the game. Hopefully he’s okay after leaving the game with an injury. The initial reports are that he suffered a stinger and should be okay, but we’ll know more tomorrow after tests are run.
What I didn’t like...
Jonathan Stewart - Extremely Pessimistic
It’s time to have an uncomfortable conversation, Panthers fans. Jonathan Stewart is done. It’s time to move on. The Panthers have Christian McCaffrey, Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker (when healthy), so we can make the post-Stewart offense work. He was decidedly awful yesterday. 11 carries for 21 yards and two, yes... TWO fumbles is not a good way to keep your name in the running back conversation. And, can we please stop pitching it to him for an outside run? It’s clearly not working. No one falls for it, and everyone stops it. It’s time to send him out to pasture and let the young guys take over.
Seriously - love everything you’ve done for us Stewart, but your time has come.
Late offensive play-calling - Extremely Pessimistic
Why do we keep calling the run, run, pass, punt quartet when we’re trying to hold a two-score lead in the 4th quarter? Seriously... can anyone answer that for me? We do this every week and it always backfires on us. If not for Julio Jones dropping a gimme touchdown, we would have lost because of it. That’s not good, and it’s insane that we keep going to that well. There’s no water there, only sadness.
Offensive line - Somewhat Pessimistic
I don’t want to beat on them too much because we did get the running game going yesterday, but there were times that I wondered if we even had an offensive line out there. They’ve got to do a better job of giving Cam Newton time to make decisions and throw downfield. I don’t know what changes we need to make, but we need to figure them out and make them soon.
Kaelin Clay - Somewhat Pessimistic
Clay was Kaelin us yesterday. (Sorry, not sorry.) First, a fumbled fair catch (luckily he recovered it). Then, a nice return called back by a penalty (which wasn’t his fault to be fair), and finally, an OPI called on him (which was fortunately called back due to an uncatchable pass). I know he’s new and they’re trying to work him into the offense, but he’s going to have to improve if he wants more playing time. I hope he can because I like the kid, but I didn’t like most of what I saw from him yesterday.
A Monday Night Football date with the Miami Dolphins. The Panthers are riding a two-game winning streak into a game they should probably win on paper, so honestly we should be prepared for literally anything to happen next Monday night.