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.

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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.

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.