Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Hog Molly Report, where winning in the trenches is all that matters. Before we begin, we open with the reciting of our usual motto:
“Big men allow you to compete. We’re certainly going to look at the big hog mollies.”
In keeping with the proven philosophy that building a team from the inside out is the best strategy for long term success, my goal will be to watch the hog mollies each game during the season and discuss their performance.
It was a come back to earth moment for the Carolina Panthers, but not really in the way anyone expected. The offense did enough in this game to win, it was the defense producing the letdown. We got trampled. We let Ron Rivera play a Ron Rivera style game that was entirely predictable, and it’s a little shameful. We’ll get to the defense in a moment, but first let’s talk offense.
The offensive line
The NFL’s greatest shuffling experiment continues, and yet right now, you wouldn’t know it. The offensive line had another good day on the whole, and kept Cam Newton clean all the way up until the final play, where they officially gave up a sack, but not really. The team averaged over five yards per carry, and generally, the offense was humming pretty well. Situational football needs to be better as we only converted two of the nine third downs we faced, but I think that gets better as Cam Newton actually gains more of a foothold in the offense. Considering he was basically getting instructions on the fly in his headset, he had as good a game as you’d expect. 21 points should have been enough to win.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t single out Brady Christensen for a heroic left tackle performance. No pressures and no sacks. Again, I don’t see any reason why he should be moved off that spot, despite who gets healthy. He’s very clearly improving as the season goes on, and he should get to set up camp there. Second, you gotta give it up to Pat Elflein, who went from a forgotten man to looking like a legitimate starting NFL center upon the Matt Paradis injury. The weak links continue to be at guard, and if one guy really struggled on Sunday, it was Michael Jordan.
This doesn’t change anything about where the Panthers need to acquire talent looking toward the offseason. We still need linemen. These last few weeks have been encouraging though, that the situation is leveling out a little.
The defensive line
Woof. Talk about a bad day to have a bad day. Single handed ruining the Cam Newton homecoming on what was easily their worst performance of the season. Yes, I know a far more talented Dallas Cowboys offense scored more points, but the Washington Football Team played a predictable Ron Rivera game, and it should have been easy to contain. It wasn’t.
Making it worse, this was a result of fundamentally bad football up front, at least talking about how we were gashed in the run game. Washington ran it 40 times, it’s not like we didn’t know what they’d do, yet we still couldn’t do right. The reason was poor gap integrity. All Carolina Panthers defensive tackles were just as bad as the next, and yes, I absolutely mean Derrick Brown too. It wasn’t any better on the edge where no matter who needed to set it, ends, safeties, corners... didn’t matter. They all got swallowed up or cast aside.
Despite decent pressure, Taylor Heinecke had his ultimate revenge game, and that problem might not be the Hog Mollies issue to bear, but... just felt like we played some crazy supercharged version of the WFT, and our defense was not the unit we have been used to. Hopefully, this defensive failure translates into teachable moments and a renewed vigor against the Miami Dolphins, as the defense has to know they failed us this time.
Despite the defensive issues, this offense did have two chances to take back the game late, and failed on both. I have a bone to pick with Matt Rhule about how he handles fourth down situations, as his latest wasted time out while changing his mind on fourth down is the most egregious one yet. My opinion, was that you punt that football, which he originally intended to do. I would also have been fine if he wanted to go for it. The thing I can’t stand is the third option, choosing one, changing your mind, wasting a timeout you need, and then giving the other team a chance to respond to your change of heart. Either leave the offense out there and go right away, or punt the football. Your indecision is hurting your team both situationally and psychologically. It happens far too often. Show some confidence and for the love of all things football... think ahead. Get it fixed, coach.