Panthers fall to 1-8, now officially the worst team in the league

Today’s game was a little different than what I was expecting with Carolina’s offense actually showing up and finally having an 100 yard running game (from Mike Goodson) but the defense choked at the worst times. This year, it’s mainly been the Panthers defense that’s kept them in games but it was the other way around today. The offense actually pulled together a lot of good drives and the defense constantly allowed the Bucs to convert on third down and ultimately lost the game after allowing Cadillac Williams to run 45 yards for a TD on 3rd and 11. It was a pretty discouraging performance fromt hem but in a year like this, you have to find silver linings in losses. The silver lining with today’s game was that the offense showed a little bit of progression considering two of the biggest playmakers were out. There were miscues in the red zone and we are still struggling to put points on the board but this is a start. There were also a few good special teams plays, which is good to see because that was a weak point for us last year. Now, let’s break down the aspects of this game.

I don’t think it’s too bold to say that Jimmy Clausen had his best game as a Panther so far this season. His line of 16/28 191 yards isn’t anything great but it’s better than he’s looked for the most part this season. He looked slightly more comfortable despite not getting the best protection from the lineand he spread the ball around nicely. The problem is he didn’t lead many drives that led to TD’s and that’s a bigger assessment to the offense than Clausen himself. Carolina got into the red zone three times today and scored once on a Josh Vaughan run. There were multiple times where we got into Bucs territory and could only get field goals, similar to the Giants game at the beginning of the season. The offense was gaining yards but not putting points on the board and that’s not going to win you a lot of games.

Breaking things down more, I don’t know why it took us loosing 3 running backs for Davidson to finally run a more balanced offense. Mike Goodson had 23 carries for 100 yards which counts as an overall solid game in my book minus the fumble. Granted, it was against the worst run defense in the league but you have to take what you can get. I still see Goodson’s ceiling as only a change of pace back but he can definitely be effective in this offense. Here’s what I don’t understand. Why didn’t we use him in the red zone? Vaughan got the first TD but on the last possession we ran passing plays and two QB sneaks in a row, which does not work behind this offensive line. We weren’t going to win at that point so why not call something a little more risky than two QB sneaks in a row?

Now that we got the offense out of the way, it’s time to criticized the defense. My biggest gripe with them today is that they couldn’t get key stops when they mattered. They let the Bucs convert 5/10 3rd down conversions, they couldn’t stop LeGarrette Blount at all, they let the Bucs score right before half time and finally, they let Cadillac Williams get two huge runs on third down on the Bucs last possession, one of which went for a touchdown. Awful. It does nothing but strengthen my opinion that fixing this defensive line needs to be priority #1 this off-season. Other receiving options would be nice but LaFell and Gettis are coming along nicely. This defensive line is terrible, awful, no good and their inability to stop the run and how they let Josh Freeman do whatever he wanted in the pocket is proof of that.

I said in my previews that the line was going to have trouble with Blount and it would be up to the linebackers to bring him down and that didn’t happen. Another thing I mentioned was how Josh Freeman destroyed us last game and he did it again, not so much as the first game but he still made a huge impact. He kept scrambling out of pressure and completed a lot of deep passes to keep Tampa Bay’s drives alive. I also said that Cadillac Williams was struggling this year and he was the one who basically won the game for the Bucs in the end.

At the end of the day, the Bucs were the better team than Carolina but the offense is what kept the Panthers in this game despite the problems scoring. The defense didn’t show up and that’s what lost the game for them. I am hoping that the issues up front will be addressed this off-season but I guess this is what you have to take when you’re going through a year like Carolina is. As the season goes on, you realize what your team’s real strengths and weaknesses are. Clausen is improving, the receiving corps is less of a mess and we are starting to see that the biggest problems are with the pass rush and possibly the secondary. In future weeks we’ll find out more things about the younger guys on this team and what needs to be done in the off-season to fix it. Hopefully we can get a couple more wins along the way.

Game Balls:

Mike Goodson: Aside from that fumble, he had a great day and it’s good to finally have a 100 yard rusher on the year.

John Kasay: Now if we could only get him kicking more extra points instead of field goals.

Jon Beason: Was one of the few linebackers I actually saw get into the backfield to make plays and stop Blount.


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