Panthers offensive nightmare continues

I”m going to assume that last week was a fluke and the Panthers we’ve been seeing all year came back to their usual pathetic state today. It was truly a horror show on offense for Carolina today as they failed to get hardly any drives going and ended up losing 20-10 to the St. Louis Rams and it could have been a lot worse had the defense not played well.

I’ll just post the offensive numbers because I’m already pretty bad about the game and I think the numbers will speak for themselves.

201 total years
8 first downs
25 total rushing yards
4 turnovers (3 INT’s 1 fumble)
1 possession in the red zone

There’s so many ways I can define this shitshow of an offense but I’m just going to call it an abomination for now. Matt Moore threw three interceptions as a result of poor decisions. First one coming off a flea flicker which he LOBBED towards Steve Smith and it was intercepted by James Laurinaits. The last interception was similar to what he was doing earlier in the year. Awful decision to sling a pass downfield to Steve Smith instead of going for a better option. Remember how we thought David Gettis would be our X factor this week? He had zero catches today. ZERO. Steve Smith was responsible for most of the receiving yards and he had a couple of drops as well as a horrible fumble. Brandon LaFell made a few nice catches and was one of the few solid players on the offense.

Moore looked like he did in the Giants game where he looked confident when he was completing passes and moving the chains. That only happened inside the two minute warning in the 1st half and the 2nd to last drive where we scored a TD. Aside from that, he looked like he usually does. He panicked too early, threw awful passes and made terrible decisions. I really thought he could build off of his performance last week but I guess I was wrong.

Jonathan Stewart had another rough game only rushing for 30 yards on 14 carries. I felt we should have given him the ball more but he is clearly not playing well and I don’t know what is wrong with him this year. The offensive line certainly didn’t do him any favors though as they were brutal today. Matt Moore was sacked three times and Chris Long was in Moore’s face all game.

It was more of the same from the defense. The Rams were running a lot of short yardage plays with the longest one being a 33 yard pass to Brandon Gibson. There were definitely a lot of coverage issues in the secondary as Sam Bradford completed 4 or more passes to 4 different receivers. I mentioned in the preview that Danny Amendola was the one he went to most and he found him 6 times, one of which being a TD and he was his favorite target in the red zone. I also mentioned that Brandon Gibson would be a possible threat and he was. Bradford just kept finding open receivers and slowly chipped away at the Panthers defense and they put enough points on the board to win the game. It helped the the Carolina offense has been playing at an abysmal level so 20 points were all they needed.

I felt the defense did a fine job of keeping the Panthers in the game for awhile but they can only do that for so long. If the offense doesn’t do anything then it’s very difficult to win. The defense did hold Steven Jackson to only 58 yards on 23 carries and James Anderson had a nice day but that can only take us so far. We didn’t force any turnovers and the game could have been a lot closer if we did.

Then of course, I have my issues with the play calling and coaching as usual. Starting the game off with a flea-flicker was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Then there were the constant deep passes despite only being down 10-3 and getting us in an even bigger hole. I also hated the decision to try an onside kick after making the score 20-10. We, obviously, didn’t recover it but held the Rams to a 3 & out and they pinned us inside our own 5 with the punt. We had 2 timeouts left at the time and could have kicked it away, held the Rams and then forced a punt to get better field position. You only try an onside kick when you’re down by one score. Awful, awful decision.

In the end, the Panthers are 1-6 and I said earlier in the year that they are a 4-12 team AT BEST with the way they were playing. That’s what I saw out there today, an awful team. The silver lining is that we will get a high draft pick this season. It’s a rough season because the team really should not be this bad but they are. All we can do is wait for the real rebuilding process to start and hoping that we won’t see these piss fucking poor efforts from the offense. I thought we really had some improvement last week but we ended up taking 5 or 6 steps back today with this game today.

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Panthers vs. Rams Preview

 

 

Going into this season, I looked at our schedule and saw that we play the Rams on Halloween. I marked it down as a game that the Panthers “should” win. Now that we are 7 weeks into the season, things have changed quite a bit. The Panthers sit at 1-5 while the Rams are 3-4 and are playing a lot better than most expected them to be. Regardless, I’m going to mark this as a game that Carolina can win but it wont be an easy one. It will be even more difficult with DeAngelo Williams listed as doubtful with a foot injury. There will be a lot of pressure on Jonathan Stewart to carry the running game like he did at the end of last season. More on that later.  Last week’s win over the 49ers did give me a lot more confidence int he team, though so I am hoping Matt Moore can build off his strong performance and lead us to a win.

Know Your Enemy

As I said earlier, the Rams have been a bit of a surprise this year at 3-4 since a lot of people saw them winning only 3 games this whole season. All three wins have come at home and against pretty tough opponents in Washington, San Diego and Seattle. While three of their four losses are on the road against teams like Oakland and Detroit. I have to think they have the advantage in this game  since they obviously play better inside the Edward Jones Dome than they do on the road.

The Rams have a fairly balanced offense where they tend to pass more (it’s been about a 55/45 ratio this season) but they have a very strong running game led by  Steven Jackson. He has been a top 5 running back for the past few years and he’s gone over a 100 yards in three games this season. The Rams tend to give him more than 20 touches a game, too. Another key piece to their offense is the No. 1 overall pick, Sam Bradford. His rookie season has been pretty good so far as he’s thrown for 1483 yards and 9 TD’s in  7 games despite having a depleted/young receiving corps. However, he hasn’t had the best protection; Bradford’s been sacked 15 times and thrown 8 INTs this season.

The Rams defense is in the middle of the road in terms of stopping the run and pass. They have allowed only one 100 yard game from a single back this season (Darren McFadden) but they have been giving up about 108 yards per game on the ground. Their passing D is ranked 18th and while they have done well against other teams #1 receivers but have had trouble covering #2 targets and tight ends. The key player here is LB James Laurinitus, who led NFL rookies in tackles last season.

Now that we’ve gotten to know some of the Rams, let’s see how they matchup with the Panthers and vice versa.

Panthers passing game vs. Rams secondary

Matt Moore finally looked like his 2009 form in last week’s game throwing for 308 yards and 2 TD’s. Can he continue to put up these kinds of results is the question. The Rams have been good at limiting success to team’s number one receivers so Steve Smith could have another tough game. However, this situation isn’t as bad as it was earlier in the year since we know that Brandon LaFell and David Gettis are capable of exploiting single coverage and Moore’s been good enough to get the ball to them. Corner Ryan Bartell will be covering Smith and he’s been good, but shaky at time so Smith will definitely have his chances. The slot receivers are the ones that are going to get the most targets, though since the Rams are dead last in coverage to #2 and 3 receivers. This is partially due to having injuries to Bartell, teams using 3-4 WR sets making them use nickel and dime packages with younger corners and a lack of outside linebackers that can play pass coverage. Hey that sounds familiar! Let’s hope our tight ends can take advantage of this matchup. Just hope that Moore doesn’t overthrow any passes because free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe is capable of picking those off. Of course, there’s always the question of whether Moore’s performance was just a one-week thing. Hopefully it wasn’t.

Panthers run game vs. Rams run defense

Jonathan Stewart is going to be starting at running back and this is a good chance for him to break out of this slump he’s in. The Rams defensive line seems to play better against the pass than the run but there’s a good chance they will be stacking the box with 6-7 guys and all will have their eyes on Stewart before he can get anywhere. Stewart is a back that’s better at going in between the tackles so I’m expecting him to be used in short yardage situations and in the red zone. However, him breaking out for a few big runs to the outside isn’t out of the question. The Rams stacking the box is a concern but their linebacking corps is weak outside of Laurinaitus. Laurinaitus is a linebacker similar to Patrick Willis of the 49ers with his combination of speed and size along with his ability to chase down running backs. Larry Grant and Na’il Diggs do not concern me at all so runs to the outside are going to be Carolina’s best friend in Sunday’s game.

Panthers offensive line vs. Rams defensive line

This could be what prevents us from passing the ball. The Rams defense has 20 sacks on the year with 16 of them coming from the defensive line. Garry Williams had a solid game in his debut at right tackle last week but that was against a 3-4 with a lot of pass rush coming from linebackers. How will he fare against James Hall? Hall has 6.5 sacks on the year and I’m expecting him to be double teamed by Williams and Schwartz while Kalil takes care of defensive tackle Gary Gibson. Hall’s success has a lot to do with the presence of Chris Long on the left end, who has drawn a lot of attention from other team’s offensive lines. The Panthers offensive line will need to buckle down like they did last week if we want to have any success in the passing game. It will be tough since the Rams generate a lot of pressure from the front four and screen passes to Stewart and Mike Goodson could be essential to having early success for the offense. If they do leave the backs open on flat and screen routes, it’s up to Moore to see that and take advantage of it.

Rams passing offense vs. Panthers passing defense

Sam Bradford’s had a solid rookie season thus far and one of the most impressive things is how he’s made use of a depleted receiving corps. The Rams have seen season-ending injuries to Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton, who were projected to be their top 2 receivers. Their go-to guy now seems to be Danny Amendola, who usually lines up in the slot so he could see a big day against Carolina. Who will get the other targets is a good question. It looked like Danario Alexander would be the #1 receiver after a strong game against San Diego but he is injured and rookie Mardy Gilyard took his place. Brandon Gibson is another possible target and there’s always the threat of Steven Jackson on screens. So, the question here is who are the Panthers corners going to cover? We usually shift Richard Marshall over to the nickel position if the slot guy causes a lot of trouble, leaving Captain Munnerlyn on the #2 receiver. It’s kind of a scary matchup but the Rams passing game’s been a tad inconsistent all year and the Panthers have played well against the pass lately so I think it could be a good game for them.

As I said earlier, Bradford’s been making targets out of a lot of “unknown” guys so there’s always a chance someone else can step up. There isn’t a real “big play” threat with Mark Clayton out for the season so covering Amendola will be key. Safeties Sherrod Martin and Charles Godfrey will need to keep their eyes out for overthrown/bad passes Bradford will likely throw and pick them off.

Rams running game vs. Panthers run defense

Carolina’s given up two 100 yard rushing games in a row and it could be three with how good Steven Jackson is. The Rams are a team that loves to run the middle most of the time, so it’s up to Derek Landri, Ed Johnson and Dan Connor to stop him in his tracks. I would also keep an eye on James Anderson since he has shown the ability to sniff out ball-carriers this season. It’s also up to SS Charles Godfrey to be in the right place keep Jackson from getting any big runs. With how the last few weeks have gone, the Rams have a better chance at beating us through the air than on the ground and we have to limit Jackson’s big plays as much as possible. It’s especially important with the TOP game as well.

Rams offensive line vs. Panthers defensive line

The defensive line’s looked steadily better with each game and the Rams have allowed 15 sacks this year (probably due to a lot of passing attempts). Key matchup here is DE Charles Johnson vs. RT Jason Smith. Johnson’s been the team’s best pass rusher so he’s got the best chance of making Bradford uncomfortable and forcing errant throws. Stopping Jackson will also be up to the defensive line since the weakest link of the Rams o-line is RG Adam Goldberg, a poor run blocker. DT Ed Johnson will have the best chance at getting in the backfield than anyone else. I would like to see some blitzes from Jon Beason and James Anderson, as well. Regardless, the Panthers will have their chance to get to Bradford, but whether or not the front 4 can do it alone is still a mystery.

Things I Want To See From This Game

– A win. (duh)

– No interceptions from Moore. I’m willing to let the one last week slide as awful as it was. Point is, we need to stop turning the damn ball over if we want to win more games.

– Gettis and LaFell to have another big game. Either or the other. I’m not asking for another 100+ receiving performance but I think 5-7 catches and a TD for one of them isn’t terribly out of the question.

– The offensive line to stay stable. They played well last week but the Rams are going to be a tougher challenge than the Niners were.

– Jonathan Stewart to shut up fantasy owners. Seriously, I’m so tired of people asking me “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO JONATHAN STEWART? HE’S KILLIN’ MY FANTASY TEAM MAN!” Yeah, he hasn’t been good but I hardly give a damn about your fantasy team so maybe him having one big game will get people to stop crying.

– Another 20+ point performance. Yeah, I’m raising my expectations a little, haha.

– Better time and clock management.

– Get to Bradford, make him uncomfortable and throw bad passes and turn them into turnovers.

– Moore not to get killed back there. The Rams defensive line kind of scares me with how much Moore’s been getting beat up this year. Hopefully we can limit how many times he gets sacked and pressured this week.

Prediction

With my confidence about this team up right now, I’m going to be a little more cocky with my pick this week. This is assuming everything I typed above goes as planned (which it rarely does). I’m predicting another ugly win like the one against the Niners this week but I don’t think ti will come down to a game winning field goal this time. Hopefully not.

Panthers 24 Rams 19

0-2 teams; Panic or Patience?

Starting off the season 0-2 can be a troublesome thing to a lot of teams. There are some fans who think their team will turn it around eventually and others who believe the sky is falling. There’s a few teams who I think put themselves into a whole early at 0-2 but most of them have a good chance at turning it around or have nothing to worry about. Which ones should panic and which ones should stay patient?

Buffalo Bills: Neither

I know it sounds silly but the Bills were an awful team coming into this year and I don’t think anyone had them competing. They are just playing for a high draft pick right now.  I guess “patience” is the right word for them but it’s going to be frustrating for Bills fans to sit through another awful season. They play in a tough division too so that doesn’t help.

Cleveland Browns: Panic..sort of.

Their in the same boat as the Bills, really. They aren’t going to do much and their front office is planning for next year already. Browns fans better hope they have a good draft or else it could be time to panic really soon.

Dallas Cowboys: Panic

I do believe that the Cowboys will turn it around but losing the first two games on your schedule against beatable teams isn’t a good start at all. To top it off their offense hasn’t gotten the wheels clicking at all. Romo and Austin seem to be the only ones that are producing. The o-line has been bad and their kicker is garbage. If they want to go the Super Bowl like they’re expecting, then they need to fix things and fast.

Minnesota Vikings: Panic

Not a good start for this team and the injuries at wide receiver make it even worse. To top it off, Favre hasn’t been good at all. They should be even more worried since the Packers look like the team to beat in the NFC and the Bears are 2-0 as well. Favre did get off to a slow start last year too but the Vikings were 2-0 during that stretch.

Detroit Lions: Patience

The Lions haven’t been bad in their two losses and I think they can win at least 5 games this year. That and the organization has already gone 0-16, how worse can things get? 5 or 6 wins would be a good season for them at this point.

Carolina Panthers: Panic

It looks like Jeff Otah’s going to be out for longer than most expected so that’s big trouble for their running game. Their defense can’t rush the passer and their secondary has been terrible. They yanked their starting QB after 2 games. If he can provide a spark to this anemic offense then maybe there isn’t any need to panic. Still, it’s going to be another mediocre year for them. How long are they going to be content with this?

St Louis Rams: Patience

You really can’t do anything else but be patient when you have a rookie QB, mostly inexperienced line and are coming off a 1-15 season.

San Francisco 49ers: Patience

They play in the NFC West and did a pretty good job at slowing down the Saints offense. I think they’ll be in the playoffs if Alex Smith can get it together. He showed a lot of signs of improvement on that game tying TD drive.