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Monday Morning Optimist: From doormat to defense, the Phil Snow Story

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

There are some easy to pin bright sides following an otherwise mixed bag of a day. They doubled their punt total from the previous month in the first half, and kept at it at the start of the second half with another three and out. They held the Lions offense to 1-6 on third down attempts. PJ Walker was willing and occasionally even able to push the ball down the field.

All of that should have added up to a dominant performance. Perhaps it would have with a healthier team. But Rhule and his staff need to learn how to produce a consistent product with what they have. The only consistent part of an NFL roster is the inconsistency due to injury. That will be true every year Rhule is coaching the Panthers.

I don’t know what to tell you. Nobody predicted a shut out. The combination of season highs in sack, punt, and missed field goal counts came out of nowhere. It allowed the Panthers to move to third place in the NFC South which has, for the truly deluded optimists among you, an outside shot at this season’s expanded play off format. Also, shout out to the Atlanta Falcons who lost to Taysom Hill.

As wins and shut outs go this was still a rocky day for the Panthers. Penalties, turnovers, and drops would have doomed them against a better team than these Detroit Lions. That said, penalties, red zone turnovers, and drops should be easily rectifiable with Teddy Bridgewater back under center next week. Iron out those mistakes and the Panthers would have posted a dominant performance against an inferior opponent. That is the mark of a good team. The Panthers are almost a good team and that is still miles better than I expected for a regime change in 2020.

What I liked

P.J. Walker - Extremely Optimistic

Walker made two bad decisions that were hard to believe watching live. They are going to harder for him to believe watching the replays. The 25 year old quarterback is coming off of his first NFL start this morning. He’ll learn.

The reason he’ll get the opportunity to start again is his arm. He clearly has the talent to compete in the NFL and his willingness to push the ball down the field provided something that this offense has been lacking under Bridgewater. The end zone picks will keep him from threatening Bridgewater for the Panthers job, but he’ll grow into an attractive option for some quarterback needy team over the next year.

Phil Snow- Extremely Optimistic

Snow made an appearance here last week. That was half sarcasm. Today is anything but. A shut out, holding the Lions to three of 14 on third down, five sacks, and six punts forced isn’t just a turn around against an NFL team. It was a triumph.

He rushed more than three on third and long and he kept Tahir Whitehead comfortably on the bench for most of the game. Two glaring errors that persisted for weeks were corrected at the same time and made all the difference. If he keeps this up then we can get back to being flabbergasted by what he has produced with such a young squad.

DJ Moore - Extremely Optimistic

Fans and reporters alike have been asking for weeks where Moore went. Apparently it was to practice with Walker. The Panthers nominal number one receiver set a season high today on targets, receptions, and yards with a 10/7/127 line. The only things missing were touchdowns, but those were hard to come by yesterday. Here’s to more games like this

Brian Burns - Extremely Optimistic

We know Snow isn’t psychic, even though he predicted an imminent three sack game from Burns. If he were then Burns would have had the opportunity to have this kind of game before Week 11. Even still, with one complete and two half sacks, Burns was a monster out there. The really impressive-yet-inevitable prediction is for Burns to have a multiple sack, blocked kick, pick six day in the future. He nearly had the pick six with a deflected pass off of Matt Stafford in the third quarter. Good days should be Burns’ bread and butter now, with absurd days on the not too distant horizon.

Also, props to Efe Obada for nearly tying his season record for sacks in single game. He did pass his previous season high and there are still five games left to play.

The takeaway

We’re not going to rag on any one poor performance. Partly because the Panthers just snapped a five game losing streak and partly because the Lions were so bad it’s hard to say exactly how good or bad any one player was for Carolina. And that’s the lesson of yesterday’s win: it wasn’t hard to come by. We can only learn so much about who the Panthers are or can be for the rest of 2021.

It’s just like the start of the season. Their flashes of good are great. But their consistency damns them. They still lacked consistency yesterday. Some of that comes down to starting a backup quarterback. Some of that comes down to them being truly inconsistent. Bridgewater’s return will be telling as to whether or not the team we thought was dangerous can actually live up to their threats this season.