Sunday, January 11, 2009

Forget everything I said... the previous blog post. I almost nailed the score, though.

A 12-4 regular season, NFC South championship, and a first round bye culminated in one of the loudest playoff thuds ever. 5 Jake Delhomme interceptions, and 1 fumble by the QB led to a 33-113 drubbing at the hands of America's newest sweethearts, the Arizona Cardinals.

Hats off the Birds--they had an answer for anything Carolina threw at them. Kurt Warner was solid, Larry Fitzgerald proved worthy of a starting spot on the Pro Bowl team, and Neil Rackers 4 FG's were the additional spice the Cardinals needed to beat a Panthers team that seemed to not realize they were supposed to play Saturday, rather than Sunday.

The taste is still bitter for Panther fans, no doubt, but the truth is the Cardinals were simply that much better Saturday night. It's easy to put the blame on Delhomme. Look a little deeper, and maybe 2 portions of the Panthers as a whole would get a passing grade for their performance. Kick returner Mark Jones was average, perhaps slightly better than average. The offensive line surrendered just 2 sacks. I would grade both the return game, and the O-line with passing grades.

Everyone else was less than passing. In some cases far less.

The O-line gets a passing mark, because the Panthers only had 15 rushing attempts. The strength of the Panthers over the back end of the season was their ability to run the ball. they abandoned that a bit early in my opinion. Sure they trailed 14-7 after the fumble that led to the go-ahead TD for Arizona. It was still the first quarter. So much time left, no one tried to settle the offense down, and try to get them to establish a rhythm. It was quicksand (to borrow a line from a scene in "The Replacements." You fight hard, have a setback, fight harder, but one bad thing leads to another, until you are in over your head-like quicksand. That's what happened to the Panthers. One mistake led to an avalanche of points, and more mistakes, and in the end, 33-13 is how anyone will remember 2008 for the Panthers.

Next up for Carolina, the April draft. The Panthers do not have a 1st round selection as of yet. Do they try and trade into one? Who knows. Lots of decisions, and contracts have to be worked out. Jordan Gross and Julius Peppers come to mind--both are going to the Pro Bowl. Both will command a big contract number in 2009.

The 2009 season begins on Sunday for the Panthers. That's far too soon for a team that had such high hopes.

Mike Solarte

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This loss won't sting for more than 6-8 months....