Monday, November 2, 2009

One win does not a season make, BUT...

The Carolina Panthers thoroughly dominated the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, beating the birds 34-21. Last week, I said in this very blog, that Jake Delhomme could either melt or thrive under the heat of the spotlight. He did neither, and that's ok. His performance of 7-14, 90 yards and a TD looks pedestrian, but factor in the big goose egg in the INT column, and you see that Jake was just fine. Delhomme was not the reason the Panthers won the game, and he will be the first guy to point that out.

Double Trouble, the offensive line, and a foaming-at-the-mouth defense returned the upset beating. Arizona was a 10-point favorite coming into Sunday's game.

DeAngelo Williams ran for 158 yards, Carolina blasted for 270 as a team, all against the NFL's top-ranked rush defense. You heard that right, the Cardinals held the top rank in the NFL in stopping the run. In the classic case of figures lie, and liars figure, the Cardinals were the top-ranked rush defense, thanks in large part, to their offense putting opposing teams in a big deficits, and forcing them to pass.

Figures lie, liars figure.

Julius Peppers, often ripped in this blog for being transparent, was anything but on Sunday. 4 tackles, a forced fumble (which Carolina recovered), and an interception for TD. All those contributions in a game the Panthers simply had to have.

The defense had 6 takeaways against Arizona, 5 interceptions and a Kurt Warner fumble. A QB? With 6 turnovers? Man, they oughta run that clown outta town (please note the sarcasm, Cardinals fans--simply replicating the sentiments in Carolina following Jake's 6 turnover show against AZ in the playoffs). Certainly, the stage wasn't as big--week 8 of the regular season is nothing compared to the playoffs. For the Panthers, though, this game was big. Chris Harris said via his Twitter page, "revenge is a meal best served cold." The players can say what they want leading up to kickoff, but deep down, there was a NEED to win on Sunday. They filled that need.

Is the Panthers season saved? Far from it. Plenty of hurdles remain for this team that went 12-4 last season. 3-4 right now, with a road trip into New Orleans next Sunday. The Saints face Atlanta tonight, and will be on a short week for Carolina. Carolina is banged up, though, something we'll watch moving forward this week.

In NASCAR, Jamie McMurray was the winner of "Survivor: Talladega." McMurray was able to stay out front, while the junkyard was collecting behind him, and win the Amp Energy 500. Crazy race to watch--boring for 150 laps, then hold-your-breath racing for 38 laps. Drivers ripped NASCAR for the "draft-bumping" warning they got pre-race, but perhaps the loudest shot at NASCAR came from Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 US Army Chevrolet. Newman ended up on his roof, after getting airborne in a wreck. Once he got helped out of the pile of sheet metal that used to be a race car, Newman told ABC/ESPN (and I am paraphrasing here), "NASCAR puts us in this car, and then they tell us how to drive it." Basically, Newman says the COT sucks, and then telling them how to use it makes the race a disaster.

My friend and colleague Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observer made a good point, saying there is no easy answer to the problems of racing at restrictor plate tracks. Drivers want safer racing, but there are fans that want to see the tightly bunched cars, where a sneeze can cause a 14 car mess. I agree that there is no easy solution. One needs to be figured out.

More on the Panthers later this week--make it a good one.

Mike Solarte

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