Colts and Panthers and Bears Oh My!

Well what a weekend for NFL football. I mean, who would have thought the Colts would loose, the Panthers would win, and the Bears would wake up and play some football?

The Colts were on their way to NFL Greatness and made an “organizational” decision to bench their star players including Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark half way through the third quarter with a mere 5 point lead. That opened the door for the Jets to take over and win the game, improving their chances of getting into the playoffs if they can win against the Bengals next week. That game will be in Giants Stadium where the Panthers handed the Giants their worst home loss since 1998.

Speaking of the Panthers, they have won two in a row over teams I had marked down as losses and teams that could have been playing for a spot in the Super Bowl. After handing the Vikings a 26-7 loss at Bank of America Stadium the Panthers went up to New York and thrashed the Giants 41-9. The most obvious part of that win for the Panthers would be the missed tackles by the Giants. They just could not stop Jonathan Stewart who ran for a career high 206 yards and a touchdown.

Steve Smith (the Panther, not the Giant) was also having a great game until he caught a touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter and got hit on his left forearm and broke it. This man did not even grimace. Not even one little bit! He is my vote for Tough Guy of the Week, if not the season.

Last night I witnessed what was probably the best game I have seen all year. There were times where it wasn’t that pretty for either team. But what it lacked in elegance it completely made up for in sheer thrill.

The Bears were playing at home and have already been eliminated from the playoffs so this was just for pride. The Vikings took game one from the Bears in Week 12 with a 36-10 win, so this one was for a little payback.

I must say I was impressed with Jay Cutler. That is the quarterback the Bears were hoping they got when they traded Kyle Orton to Denver for him. Also Devin Aromashodu, who isn’t a rookie but has only started in three games in his four year career, had a career high 150 yards receiving with one touchdown which was also his longest reception at 39 yards which was also the game winner.

The whole Bears defense was up to the task as well keeping Adrian Peterson below 100 yards rushing for the sixth straight game, although he did compile 137 yards total for the game. They also recovered two Vikings fumbles.

The game was all Bears in the first half, but after the break it seemed like the polarity of a battery had been reversed. The Vikes came out down 16-0 and scored on their opening drive and looked to take over. The game went to overtime where it went back and forth twice before the Bears were able to score the winning touchdown.

The Bears looked like they were playing in the playoffs and it looked good.

Did it matter? To the Bears, no. To the Vikings, yes. After the New Orleans Saints lost earlier in the day the Vikings chances of getting home field throughout the playoffs increased.

But with the loss to the Bears, that is out the window.

So who is the hottest team in the league right now? I would have said either the Colts, Saints, or Vikings, but after all three lost this weekend in one fashion or another, my hottest team right now is the San Diego Chargers, winners of 10 in a row.

One week left in the regular season.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.

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A Carolina Panthers Turn Around?

Last night I witnessed something that I haven’t seen in quite some time.

A desire to win.

Sure, the Panthers would have loved to win every game, who wouldn’t? But it certainly didn’t happen this year.

When the 2009 schedule came out I had marked the last four games for the Panthers as losses. They got a great start against the Patriots but could not come up with a win.

This game I thought for sure would be a loss. You see, the Vikings were vying for home field advantage in the playoffs. With the Saints  loosing to the Cowboys on Saturday, Minnesota’s chance of attaining that goal was that much closer. But they did not take advantage of that.

So the question is, did Minnesota give it away or did the Panthers dominate and show the rest of the NFC that they are worthy of respect and should not be taken lightly?

Both teams were without key players but it appeared to me that the Panthers replacements did a much better job than those on the other side of the ball.

For example, Matt Moore had his best game in his young career throwing three touchdowns and 299 yards. Jonathan Stewart rushed for 109 yards and a score, becoming the first running back to scamper for 100+ yards against the Vikings in 36 games! 36 games! And Geoff Schwartz made his first start at right tackle for the injured Jeff Otah. The offensive line provided great protection for young Matt Moore and gave him the time he needed. He wasn’t sacked and threw no interceptions.

Still not convinced we need a new quarterback?

Matt Moore has started just six games in his career, three at the end of the 2007 season and the last three games this season. His record is 4-2 in those starts and five of those games were against teams that were in first place of their division at the time. He’s completed 99 of 162 passes (65%) for 1,221 yards. He has thrown seven touchdowns with three interceptions. That generates a quarterback rating of 91.1. Not too bad for an undrafted backup QB.

In comparison, Jake Delhomme this year in 11 games has a 55% completion percentage, a 59.4 QB rating, and has 8 touchdowns with 18 interceptions, and a total of 2,015 yards. The record after 11 games in 2009? 4-7.

Oh yeah and there was that horrible playoff game against the Cardinals back in January, but I won’t bring that up again.

So do I still feel that Delhomme is nearing an end? It sure looks like it. The Panthers at the very least have to seriously consider if they are going to let Jake start again when his finger that was “broken” heals. I still think that was a cop out for benching him.

I see the future for Carolina in Matt Moore. Unless they decide to go a different route and draft a QB in 2010, which I would not put past them to do.

They always seem to mess up a good thing. Like having a fifth type of defense on the field in as many games, although it did work this week with a nickel defense.

Let’s see what they field next week. Maybe it will be the same team as this one.

And maybe…just maybe, the Panthers will begin to turn it around for good.

NASCAR and Dodge

Well there is one less team in NASCAR running with the Dodge name. Richard Petty Motorsports has switched to Ford. That leaves only one big name team driving the Dodge Charger, Penske Championship Racing. Too bad I’m not a big fan of Kurt Busch or Brad Keselowski, but I will root for Sam Hornish Jr. in the 77 car. He had a pretty good year in 2009. Hope he can continue that in 2010.

There are a couple of others. One in particular is Carl Long. Remember him? Not too many folks do. You see back in May 2009 at Lowes Motor Speedway for the Sprint Showdown races before the All-Star race, Carl’s number 46 Dodge blew an engine in practice and they had to change it out if they wanted to race.

Well in doing so they had to submit the blown engine to NASCAR for inspection. Guess what? It failed. NASCAR engines can only have a displacement of 358 cubic inches (about 5.9 liters). His engine, which blew, was measured at 358.17 inches. So it failed.

What did NASCAR do? They fined Carl $200,000, suspended him for 12 races, and docked him 200 owner and driver points. He finished the 2009 season with a negative 200 points, the first driver to have ever done that. You see Carl is not only the driver, but he is the owner too. A one car, small operation owner out of Troutman, NC.

He appealed but was denied. NASCAR takes engine size very seriously and they don’t mess around with that. According to Carl, he bought his engine from a reputable provider and it was all he could afford at the time. It had 50 less horsepower than a normal Sprint Cup engine.

He hasn’t raced in the Sprint Cup since. He is a member of the Front Row Motorsports pit crew who drive Dodges, but he can’t drive.

He is currently taking donations on his website at www.carl-long.com and one of his supporters is David Reutimann of Michael Waltrip Racing.

I think this is a travesty and NASCAR needs to fix this rule. There should be tolerances like there are in other aspects of the car during inspection. Heck, he didn’t even race the engine in question. And now a small business owner is out in the cold. He can’t do what he loves and that is race cars. Too bad. I hope I can donate to help him pay his fine and I hope you can too. Any bit will help I am sure.

Back to Dodge in NASCAR, it is sad that so many teams are switching. Is it the economy? Is it that Dodge is not throwing money to the racing teams or providing them with enough support? Are they really making that bad of a product?

I sure will hate to see Kasey Kahne in a Ford, although he did get his start in one. That relationship ended poorly but Ford and Kahne have both come out and said that all that is behind them and is water under the bridge. I sure hope so for Kasey’s sake. He deserves to be in a great car that will help him make a run for the Championship.

Will it be in a Ford with Richard Petty Motorsports? He only has one year left in his contract with them. We can only wait to see where he will go at the end of 2010. Maybe Penske will have room for another driver in his stable to have four cars.

After all, that’s all the cars you can have as far as NASCAR is concerned. But that is another rule that needs to be discussed at a later date.

Until then…..Go Dodge!

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Well at least not yet.

Sure, the Panthers won today. But remember it was against the 1-10 (now 1-11) Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Was there anything to cheer for? Sure, Matt Moore did ok. At least he didn’t throw five interceptions. Bucs QB Josh Freeman did that. He didn’t actually win the game, but he didn’t lose it either.

The Panthers defense had a pretty good game today taking away three passes from the Bucs in the red zone stopping them dead in their tracks. Peppers showed flares of his old self and worthiness of the Franchise tag he holds.

Jonathan Stewart held his own and actual excelled as the starter showing not only the Panthers but the entire league that he is worthy of a starting position.

Was there anything to worry about? Sure. There is still some very suspect play calling coming in from the side lines. The conservativeness of the coaching staff is wearing on a lot of fans, this one included. Matt Moore is much more capable of airing it out down field and should be given that chance to prove it.

Another thing to worry about? Jake Delhomme will be back as the starter. I don’t see any way around it. They signed him to a five year, forty-five million dollar contract before the season started. You can’t cut a guy like that and right now he has no trade value at all. He will have to come back.

Maybe, just maybe he will be relegated down to backup status and Matt Moore will continue to be the starter. And Matt will be allowed to attack the defense and move the ball down field. And not just be on the field to not lose the game.

But I won’t get my hopes up.

Well at least not yet.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Wins NASCARs Most Popular Driver

Again.

For the seventh year in a row, NASCAR fans have selected Dale Jr as the Most Popular Driver.

Really? I don’t see it.

I don’t think Jr really does either. And it shows in his racing.

In fact a few years ago he skipped the award ceremony all together. He said he learned a lesson from that and has personally accepted each one since then.

He hasn’t been the most dominant of drivers. Bill Elliott wasn’t really either, but he has won a Championship. He has won the MPD award 16 times. So many in fact that they will rename the award after him when he retires from the sport.

Richard Petty has won the award 9 times. We all know how popular and successful he was.

Bill won the award a record 10 years in a row. In 2001 it went to Dale Sr, the year he died, and then back to Bill in 2002.

Enter Dale Jr.

Since 2003, the fans of NASCAR have given this award to Dale Jr for what can only be explained as a proxy for his dad. His performance on the track certainly hasn’t justified it. I know it’s not all about what goes on at the track and I’m sure Dale Jr has made an impact in the lives of others be it his charitable work or the like, but I still just don’t see it.

His heart just isn’t in the sport anymore. He said upon receiving the award this year “I can’t thank them enough (the fans), so I guess I’ll just keep showing up.”

So you are only showing up to race because of us fans? Really? I mean I know this is a fan sport, but you have to have some other reason to go out there and risk your life by driving 200 mph with 42 other cars inches apart besides us fans.

He also said, “There’s a big sense of that I earned this, that I deserve this because of my family name.” You got that right.

“My father, he gave me a hell of a gift in popularity, so my job has been to try to be an asset to the sport and to maintain that gift and it’s integrity.” Then why don’t you try winning a few more races or at least be in contention to win a few more races.

He has been with Hendrick Motorsports now for two full years and has only won one race in that time, none this year.

Dale – it’s time to start being a winning driver and not just a popular driver.

Again.

An excuse to bench Jake Delhomme?

It has come to everyone’s attention that Jake Delhomme, the beleaguered quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, seems to have broken a finger on his throwing hand late in the game Sunday against the New York Jets. It allegedly happened on a pass to Dwayne Jarrett which was thankfully completed.

Video shows Jake running to the line of scrimmage after the play waving his right (throwing) hand to get the team ready for the next play. Please don’t make yourself sick all over again by watching the whole video. The play in question starts at 2:17 of the video.

Jake continues to play the game and shows no sign of any pain for nine more passes or in the after game interviews.

Hmmmm.

I wonder if this is Coach Fox’s way of benching Jake and saving face at the same time? He doesn’t have to bench him because of performance, because, let’s face it, Coach Fox will never do that. Jake doesn’t have to be the laughing stock of the NFL (he almost is, but I think the Cleveland Browns has that position wrapped up). And best of all, it just might be good for the fans.

I hope that last part doesn’t surprise anyone. How many times has a backup QB come on in the middle of a season (or at anytime for that matter) and taken over the team and gone on to greatness? Can anyone say Tom Brady? Tony Romo? Hey, what about Jake Delhomme?

Yes, Jake is one of those QBs who stepped in for either an injured or poor performing starting QB and went on to greatness. In his case it was Rodney Pete who was hit in a game and suffered from internal bleeding that let Jake loose on us all. He took the Panthers to the Superbowl in 2003 and to the playoffs in 2005 and 2008. We all know how that one ended.

Maybe it is Jake’s turn to be replaced by an up and coming backup quarterback.

Problem is…we don’t have one.