Monday, October 3, 2011

Frustration is good, if improvements follow

The Carolina Panthers dropped a 34-29 decision to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, sinking their record to 1-3, and leaving a stinging sense of frustration within the team.

To that, I say, good.

No, I am not happy the Panthers are frustrated, in fact I am glad that they are. It shows the guys in the room care about what is going on. It's a different sense of what was going on in that dressing room last year. Instead of frustration, it was more hopelessness. It was a feeling of, "we are trying, but we just don't have what it takes." This year's team clearly has what it takes, it just isn't executing when it matters most.

I am sure fans are getting tired of seeing this week in and week out. Making a lot of plays, just not making enough of them. Here's the rub: the players are tired of it, too.

I like the fact these guys aren't happy about losing. I like the fact that these guys are felling empty inside after dropping close game after close game. The true question is, will it motivate them, to a man, to step their game up a little bit more? Only the Green Bay Packers are making things look easy. Carolina is making giving games away look easy. And by giving games away, I mean, not finishing.

One quarter of the season is in he books. While it hasn't been nearly as ugly as last year (in fact, it's been rather enjoyable to watch), there are no pictures in the box score. What will it take to turn those losses into wins? It falls in this order: tighten up the defense, tighten up the special teams, and keep the offense doing what it's doing.

I'm not laying the blame at the feet of the defense, because they are doing all they can with what they have, and as we've known throughout the season, back into training camp, the defense is thin. that deep linebacking corps is being tested with Jon Beason and Thomas Davis both on the shelf for the season. It's being tested with their rookie defensive tackles. It's being tested with a young secondary. The Panthers have horses on defense, but could use some thoroughbreds. They may have some in the making (thoroughbreds), but right now, they are not up to NFL standard. That will come with experience, but there is one unavoidable truth in all of this.

The Panthers should not be 1-3 at this point of the season. A case could be made for them being 4-0. They lose by 7 to both Arizona and Green Bay, outswim Jacksonville and then come up short against Chicago. The loss to the Bears stings a bit more, because Carolina dominated Chicago on both sides of the ball for about three quarters. The Bears rushing attack owned the fourth for the home team, ultimately leading to the win. Carolina's troubles in stopping the run when it mattered hurt them in the end, but there were missed opportunities once again. A blocked field goal, and missed field goal (came up short from 52 yards, but 6 feet further and it's on the board), and other chances to sustain drives (2-12 on 3rd down conversions), will do that to a team. It is frustrating.

For a fan base that watched their team sink to the bottom of the league over a two year stretch, the losses are better than the ones from last year, however, they won't continue to be so patient. Playing good, and contending for wins is one thing, but ultimately teams are judged by wins and losses. Four games in, the new look Panthers are a frustrated 1-3.

Pretty soon, the honeymoon with all the newness will fade, and the wins will be expected, and they should be.

Mike Solarte

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