0-4..this one kind of hurt

I didn’t have high hopes for the Panthers winning this game so I’m somewhat happy that they were able to hang tough with the Saints. However, letting a winnable game like this slip away drives me insane and that’s what happened. Don’t get me wrong, I thought our defense played well enough to win. They surrendered a lot of yards, gave up a lot of 3rd down conversions but they only allowed 16 points to a very dangerous Saints offense. I could say the Panthers deserved to win but the offense didn’t play well enough………again. This isn’t anything I’m not used to though so I’m not not too upset but watching this offense is pretty difficult.

I’ll talk about what I liked first; Defense. They’ve adopted sort of a “bend but not break” strategy where they give up a lot of yards but manage to keep the opponent off the board. Drew Brees was sharp today and had a line of 33-48 275 yds, TD but his longest pass was only 20 yards. Chris Gamble did a great job of limiting Marcus Colston to only 4 catches for 36 yards and the safeties did good at not allowing any big plays. The Panthers don’t have the corners to cover all of the Saints slot receivers and tight ends so we left a big cushion in the middle of the field which Brees took advantage of. He found a lot of his receivers over the middle on short gains and they turned into first downs, which is why the Saints had the ball almost twice as long as the Panthers. However, the Panthers D played very tight in the red zone. The Saints were in the red zone 5 times and only got 16 points out of it.The only compliant I have is that the tackling could have been better.. A LOT better actually. Ladell Betts broke free of a lot of tackles.

Stand outs on the defense were definitely James Anderson and Sherrod Martin. Anderson was all over the place today. He recorded 14 tackles, recovered 2 fumbles and sacked Brees once. That was one of the best games I’ve seen from him in awhile now that I think about it. The coverage of the tight ends could have been better but he was great at chasing down the ball carriers and being heads up with recovering those two fumbles. Martin played great in coverage and forced the first Saints fumble which basically took 6 points off the board for New Orleans. DT Derek Landri also played pretty well in his position. 5 tackles and was able to stuff Ladell Betts and Chris Ivory whenever they went up the middle. We desperately needed that this year. Hope he can keep it up.

Now here’s the bad part…the offense. It wasn’t abysmal but man it could have been a hell of a lot better. For starters, they were taking forever to get set up and we had to quickly burn two timeouts as a result of that. Jimmy Clausen didn’t look like he was on the same page as the receivers, either. At least for awhile. I didn’t think the Saints coverage was that impressive but they were definitely struggling to get open. Either that or Clausen didn’t know what to do with the ball. Clausen looked decent at best but he showed flashes of greatness…not enough though. Most of his passes were too low or didn’t have enough power on them. Whenever I watch this offense it always seems like it’s so hard for us to get a first down or get a big gain in general. That was the case for awhile today except for a few big plays which I’ll talk about later.

Once again, I have to voice my displeasure with the playcalling and clock management. We had trouble extending drives early in the game because of the playcalling. All of our running plays with Stewart have becoming insanely predictable and the blocking on the right side didn’t help either. Sedrick Ellis and Alex Brown annihilating Berendeau and getting into the backfield very quickly. Also, the passing plays looked very anemic to say the least. It looked like Jeff Davidson was being cautious with Clausen since he only threw short passes and checkdowns the entire game. Maybe two or three long passes. We have to open up the playbook a little more if we want to win. How we managed the game on that last drive was horrible, too. It was fine until we got around mid-field in Kasay’s range then it all fell apart. We had only one timeout left and then had to burn another one because we weren’t getting set in time.

Another comment from that last drive, DeAngelo Williams made a pretty poor decision of trying to go to the outside on that last play but that was only because he ended up getting tackled for a loss. 8/10 times he breaks that tackle and runs for a huge gain or a TD but the Saints were able to bring him down and knock us out of field goal range. It’s a costly gamble since he probably could have gained at least 5-6 yards up the middle and get us in better field goal range. Clausen getting sacked on the next play didn’t help either. Don’t blame the loss on him, the whole offense lost the game for us. That and the Captain Munnerlyn fumble which lead to a Saints FG. That sucked.

Positive things with the offense; DeAngelo Williams. He did was he usually does which is try to break a big run out of every play and he had a great 39 yard TD run in the 3rd quarter. It was essentially the same thing he tried on the last play only he broke the tackles this time and took it to the house. Jonathan Stewart had a great 55 yard TD catch on a blown coverage. Good job by Clausen for recognizing that and delivering it right to him. Finally, that clutch 4th and 10 catch by David Gettis to keep the last drive alive. He did such a great job at keeping both feet in bounds. Now if we could get more plays like this the whole game then I would be a lot more happy.

One final problem I want to address is the issues with the receivers. Steve Smith was not targeted as much as he should have have been. New Orleans was playing with a banged up secondary and hardly tried to expose it. You can blame Clausen for not throwing it deep but there weren’t a lot of long routes called at all. Get the ball to Smith and he’s likely to make a play out of it. Just ask Jake Delhomme and Vinny Testaverde. However, Smith had to leave the game with an ankle injury and is reportedly walking with a boot and “struggling to walk under his own power.” That’s a bad sign….but I think it will put more pressure on Davidson to open up the passing game more next week. Run Gettis, LaFell and Rosario on a couple deep routes and see what happens. I didn’t include Jarrett since he’s useless. That drop in the 3rd quarter was comical and even funnier after Jeff King caught the deflection.

In the end, I’m somewhat pleased with the Panthers showing more effort but not happy with the lack of execution and that we let another winnable game slip away. That and we’re 0-4 but I wasn’t counting on us winning a lot this year. Guess it’s time to get ready for the Bears next week and hope we can build off this strong defensive performance.

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