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.

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.

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.

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.

It’s that time of year again

Yes, the holidays are upon us. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year! The smells, the sights, the pumpkin pies! And with Christmas now right around the corner I have put on the Christmas theme for my blog and will leave it up through the holidays.

Speaking of which, my wonderful wife has just baked three of the most scrumptious pumpkin pies to date! One is actually a pumpkin banana meringue and I have to wait until tomorrow and an entire car trip to Fort Bragg before I can have any! Bah, hum-bug!

We are going out to Fort Bragg to see Suzanne’s sister and her family. Aaron, her husband, joined the Army this year and he is now stationed out there. We are very proud of his decision and fully support him. They have just arrived last month to their new home and a new state. We were very surprised that they wanted to host Thanksgiving dinner…but who are we to argue with that 🙂

Well, now that the NASCAR season is over I will refocus on my other favorite sport and post more about the Carolina Panthers. It’s not looking good for the home team. After going 0-3 to start they went 4-2 over the next six games to get to 4-5. Then Miami came to town. To get to .500 all we needed to do was what we did against Atlanta just four days earlier, but it didn’t work out. Not that the Panthers did really anything wrong, but it seemed that they couldn’t keep thing going.

They did have some great moments. Steve Smith’s touchdown catch stands out to me. It was a great catch at a great time to cap off a great drive. I know I have been critical of Jake on this blog before and have called for him to be replaced, but I am willing to give him a couple more weeks.

This Sunday they play at the New York Jets and then back at home against division rivals, the Bucs. If they can squeak through these games with a couple of wins and depending on Jake’s performance in those games, I will get off his back. But I see no hope in making the playoffs this year with the last four games being against the Patriots, the Vikings, the Giants, and the Saints.

If you had asked me last year if we could roll into the playoffs with wins against those four teams I would have said no problem.

This year?

Maybe next year.

Panthers Upset the Saints?

That would be cool.

It wasn’t that long ago I had expressed my displeasure with the Carolina Panthers. Now here I am hoping for an upset over the undefeated New Orleans Saints. Do I really think it will happen? Hey, it’s the NFL. Anything can happen!

The season didn’t start so great for the Panthers. When the schedule came out before spring training, I took one look at it and said they will start 0-3. I wish I hadn’t been so accurate with my prediction. But since then, the Panthers have gone 3-1 with a miserable “here we go again” loss to the Buffalo Bills who were 2-4 at the time and struggling themselves. We have wins against Washington, Tampa Bay, and Arizona in what can only be described as complete irony in that Kurt Warner had exactly the same number and types of turnovers that Jake Delhomme did when we lost to them in the playoffs last January. He threw five interceptions and lost a fumble.

But you know what won that game for us? The running game. In that game last week DeAngelo Williams ran for 158 yards and Jonathan Stewart scrambled for another 87 yards and two touchdowns. Do they always need a huge running game to win? Not really. In the win over the Redskins, the two backs ran for a combined 79 yards and one touchdown. But against the Bucaneers they ran for 262 yards and three touchdowns! In the first three games of the season however, the dynamic duo only broke one hundred yards rushing against the Falcons.

What I believe the Panthers need to do to win today against the Saints is to run the ball more than anything else. The Saints aren’t the best rushing defense in the league but they have allowed 102 yards a game on the ground and nine touchdowns with a 4.4 yards per rush average allowed. If DeAngelo Williams can get it going, early and often, the Panthers will have a chance to steal a win from the Saints in New Orleans. That would be huge. That would be bigger than huge. A divisional game on the road over one of the last two undefeated teams in the NFL? Talk about a shot in the arm.

If last weeks emotional win on the road over the team that made the Panthers look like a junior varsity team in the playoffs wasn’t enough, a win today, on the road, in the loud, thunderous Superdome would absolutely turn this team around for good.

Do they have enough to make the playoffs? Not sure. They still have to play the Vikings, the Patriots, the Giants, and the Saints again. But if they can just string a couple of wins together, maybe, just maybe, they can squeak out a winning season to have their first back to back winning seasons in team history.

That would be cool.

What’s wrong in Carolina?

Headline, October 25, 2009, Charlotte, NC. First downs, 20-9. Total yards, 425-167. Time of possession, 35-25. All in favor of the Carolina Panthers. Final score, 20-9, Buffalo Bills. What’s wrong with this picture? We can blame a lot of people in the Panthers organization but I didn’t see very many shinning moments to hope for. The lone exception being DeAngelo Williams and his 139 total yards and one touchdown and that wasn’t really anything to write home about considering he was up against the thirty-second ranked run defense.

Something needs to happen and happen fast. Other teams sit bad performing players all the time. Why arent we doing that here? Because if we did, there would be no one left on the field. Which almost seems to be where they are now. No one seems to be playing with the intention of winning. Sure, they all come out and say that they want to win and that is why they are on the field, but when you look at their game play, you wonder if they really feel it in their hearts. Jake was benched in the first game against the Eagles, but why Coach Fox keeps starting him is a mystery. Oh wait. Maybe it’s that 42 million dollar, five year contract he signed before this season, after the dismal playoff loss to the Cardinals.

I love the Panthers. I’m glad we have an NFL team in Charlotte. I love that we made it to the Superbowl in the first ten years of the teams existence as Jerry Richardson promised. But we have never had back to back winning seasons and from what I have seen through the first six games, it looks like that tradition will remain in tact.

Maybe I will jump on a winning teams bandwagon as some of my other friends have. The Falcons? I used to pull for them before we were blessed with the Panthers. The Bengals? My mom’s family lives in Cincinnati. I can always root for the Bears. I was born in the shadow of the Windy City. Nah, they just got spanked by the aforementioned Bengals. What’s a Panthers fan to do?

I guess I will do what I have done every season after a winning one. Hold my breath, cross my fingers, close my eyes, hope that we come out of the season on some type of high note, and hope for a better season next year.

I had just hoped that next year was this one.