Monday, October 25, 2010

Winless no more

No, it is not time for ticker-tape parade down Tryon Street, but the fact remains, the Carolina Panthers won a football game on Sunday. A hard fought 23-20 win over a San Francisco 49er team that did all they could to not win.

They committed too many penalties, weren't as sharp offensively with backup quarterback David Carr filling in for the injured Alex Smith. Smith was playing well, but injured his shoulder when Charles Johnson sacked him. Carr was the same guy that Panthers fans loved to boo. he was timid, he was gun shy, and he was inaccurate. He is who the Panthers found out he is (paraphrasing the great rant of Dennis Green).

Carolina didn't luck into this win, mind you. They made their share of mistakes, too. For the first time, though, they weren't beaten by the bad breaks, or miscues. They overcame them. Matt Moore threw a horrendous interception, that was taken back for a touchdown. It was ugly. Then you have John Fox calling for Carolina to go for it on 4th and 9 from the 16, trailing by 7. About 5 minutes were left on the clock, and the 49ers had shown no signs of life once Carr came into the game. That was a tailor-made moment for Fox to boot the field goal, get the points, and sent the defense back out to hold Frisco (which they had been doing). Weirdness.

Full marks for the youth stepping up. Moore's return was solid. Brandon LaFell and David Gettis played bigger than big. Gettis with a pair of TD catches, LaFell with a monster catch on the game winning drive (aided by a picture-perfect throw from Moore). For once, the question of "who is gonna get it done," was answered.

Defensively, a couple of miscues led to some big plays in the first quarter, but for the most part, they did a nice job, Frank Gore got his yards, which you come to expect. Smith hit TE Vernon Davis on a long pass, and then a TD toss, but other than that, nothing much to speak of.

Panther offense can't crank up the running game the way they did last season. When DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are held under 100 yards a duo, it means one of two things. 1) The San Francisco defense is good against the run, or 2) Carolina's ground attack needs some work. Currently, San Fran is 15th against the run, allowing 106 yards per game. Carolina ran for 76 yards on 34 carries. I like the commitment to the run game, though. The Panthers need to be better in that part of the offense.

Special teams play was good, as return threat Ted Ginn averaged 8 yards per punt return, and about 23 on kickoffs. Rhys Lloyd did his job well, recording four touchbacks on his 6 attempts. Jason Baker averaged 40 yards per kick, which a bit pedestrian for him--his average is 43.6 yards. John Kasay was on his game, knocking through all of his field goal attempts from 37, 47 and a monstrous 55 yarder that would have been good from 60, based on where it hit the netting above my head.

The Panthers defense must have felt like it was on a vacation. They played, by my unofficial count, 54 snaps. Way down from the 70+ efforts they have put in during recent outings. They can thank the offense for winning the time of possession battle, 36:05 to 23:55.

In all, a win, is a win, is a win. Next up, a trip to St. Louis to meet the Rams, another team that is struggling, but dangerous. The Rams lost 18-17 to Tampa Bay on Sunday, and will be looking to get back into the win column to get back to 500. They sit 3-4 after the loss.

Quick note on NASCAR, I said in the previous blog post that the Sprint Cup Chase was "close to over," and that Denny Hamlin's team "has the chops to win a title, but (Jimmie) Johnson's bunch isn't allowing him to get close enough." Well, in Martinsville, Johnson's bunch didn't allow Hamlin to get close, Hamlin roasted the field winning for the third straight race there, and closing the points lead from 41 down to 6. Reason for the props for the 48 team, they finished 5th with a car that was off all day long. Bigger props to Hamlin and the #11 Fed Ex team. They have been getting it done all season long.

Next stop, Talladega. Buckle up.

Mike Solarte

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