In a week where a presidential “debate” caused alarm and general cringing for so many things wrong, and my personal production on a book and being a WFH long-form informational blogger dragged, catching the Carolina Panthers 31-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals was a definite goodness.
The Panthers (2-2) now have as many wins as the combined NFC East, RB Mike Davis has shown he can do more than just give Christian McCaffrey an occasional breather, and well, on a sunshiney fine Monday, that’s three facts to go forward with, smiling.
After stopping a 10-game Panther losing streak with a 21-16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers last week, QB Teddy Bridgewater continues to be exceptional as a distributor, hitting eight different receivers in a 26/37, 276 yd./2 TD-1 INT effort. Of those eight receivers, free agent Robby Anderson (from Jets) just missed a third straight 100 yd. game (8/99), Samuel (3/51), Moore (4/49), Bonafon (2/18 with a TD, 10/53 rushing), and Davis 5/27) means Teddy B. is doing well.
He also added 32 yards rushing, one an 18 yd. TD run, and the Panthers controlled the ball for 37 minutes of the game. Without casting too much shade on the departed Cam Newton, for a guy who has come back from a devastating knee injury, Bridgewater runs better than the version of Newton Charlotte saw the last two years, when it looked like he couldn’t decide to get down or punish a tackler.
Most experts picked the Panthers for no better than a 6-10 record, and McCaffrey’s high ankle sprain (out 4-6 weeks) probably had most of them ready to take a win or two off that idea.
In what most of America will recognize as a continuing slow, closely watched reopening of stadiums at the college (Alabama-Texas A&M had 19,424 in Bryant-Denny Stadium, apparently that constitutes ‘social distancing’ in a 101k seat stadium) and pro levels, 5,200 fans got to watch a total team effort under optimal Carolina blue skies.
In putting the metrics up for examination, the Panthers were 4/5 on trips to the red zone, scoring four TDs (1/6 last week, 5 FGs by Joey Slye), and 7/11 converting 3rd downs (3/12 v. Chargers), and they only punted ONCE. As announcers noted, Cards QB Kyle Murray gouges many teams that fail to maintain ‘rush discipline,’ so with a defense that held the elusive Murray to 133 yds. (3 TDs) on 24 ‘dink & dunk’ completions, plus 48 of his 78 yards rushing on one of his six carries, results on both side of the ball were encouraging.
Put a check mark next to Jeremy Chinn, listed as a safety, but very flexible in the Panthers defensive scheme, for your All-Rookie team. He leads his class with 34 tackles. and smile again, because new defensive coordinator Phil Snow has earned his paycheck and Panther pride is on the rise.
Really, in a 2020 world thats been truly scary since COVID appeared, last years 5-11 seems like just a bad dream, definitely worth forgetting. Unfortunately for the Texans, Washington, Giants, Jets, and Atlanta (0-4), they are probably headed into really undesirable territory. That the Falcons haven’t been able to shake their unreal Super Bowl collapse to Tom Brady’s Patriots two years ago is a fact. A recent re-do of disasterous endings – that onside kick fiasco that saved the Cowboys was a gobsmack.
Whether Falcons get healthy receiving bodies back or not bothers nobody I know – this is man-up divisional, at all times genuinely hostile time for Panthers. I’ll watch that almost any weekend.
That’s kind of where I’m going on ‘normal,’ knowing I haven’t wiped down the kitchen in two weeks, but kind of penciling in my fall Saturday afternoon: leftovers for lunch, clearing out and washing the car, grocery shopping, a walk, blocking out another blog through four-ish, and no long gun carrying dudes like in Michigan? Normal’s cool on a rainy weekend.
Sunday football makes a real weekend
Most of the sports world is settling its champions in a strange mix of seasons, and scrambled though it was, its easy to admit that getting sports as an option while most of the country was staying hunkered down helped greatly. In shorthand mode:
- The Tampa Bay Lightening beat the Dallas Stars for the NHL title in six games, and while there was no lack of effort from teams that lived in protective “bubbles” in Edmonton and Toronto while playing before empty arenas for two months, the TV ratings, probably due to the late starts in Edmonton, were less than great. Still, they were 33% better than last year, when it usually goes against the NBA and baseball in April, May, June.
- The Portland Timber took the “MSL is Back” tournament (July 8 – August 11) and immediately began the 18 games remaining on the regular 2020 schedule. Stay tuned…
- The Los Angeles Lakers lead the Miami Heat 3-1 in the NBA Finals, and LeBron was ticked off enough about 20 turnovers in the Game 3 loss to walk off the court before the end of the game. Even though the Lakers weren’t in great sync Game 4, their 3-pt. shooting was significant. Of concern to most is how things go Friday – it could be the Lakers 17th championship, LeBron’s something in a row, probably another MVP and he’s done great with his ‘More Than a Vote’ https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2898497-lebron-james-more-than-a-vote-pushing-nba-arenas-as-mega-polling-sites campaign , getting the Lakers to offer their arena (as have many other teams, including Panthers, with unused stadiums) as a polling station.
- The Triple Crown of horse-racing was won by three different horses, with the Kentucky Derby – usually the first Saturday in May, not going off until September 5th, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Authentic taking charge at the top of the stretch to give him a record 6th win. Swiss Skydiver became the 6th filly in 145 years to win the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes (first, but usually last) cutting the distance from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/8, won by Tiz the Law against a small field. Even if you’re a real horse fan, that’s still barely six minutes of action over three months though.
- Baseball has begun its second round of playoffs at about the usual time, the LA Dodgers had the best regular season record (43-17) in NL, and the Tampa Bay Rays topped the AL (40-20). The Rays-Yanks Game 5 is Friday, no days off in the bubble.
Oh, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) won the Tour de France’s maillot jaune (yellow jersey) in dominant fashion, also taking the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey and white (best young rider under 25). Going into the time trial final stage, he was 57 seconds back of leader Primož Roglič, but made that up and beat him by 59 seconds.
In the cycling world (actually, most places) that’s getting crushed.
FOOTBALL – A traditional hold on Fall sports
But FOOTBALL! with its traditional hold on the Fall sports schedule, has brought back American weekends. Yes, there are Monday and Thursday games along the way, but a brewskie or twoskie and some salty snacks, that’s the deal to chill with, COVID to the rear of the bus. Having watched nine hours, from the 1:00 Panther game till the end of the 49ers-Eagles Sunday night game, the ‘Normal’ aspect of sports watching has returned with a flourish, although commercials during timeouts are LOADED with (frequently brutal) political ads.
OH BOY! Monday Night Football is a double header! “Hunkered down”
is just a little bit better with a 60″ screen and Tony Romo.
Sports are definitive
Sports are definitive – cool, even regular compared to everything else involved in this grinding Red-Blue struggle wrapped around a panemic absolute clarity delivered with instant replays. No chicanery, no long term battles over information, or who did what on which side of any philosophical line. In or out, catch/no catch, breaking the plane, the quarterback won’t play because of a knee injury, next guy up, period.
Its not a voting situation, and personal effort counts – their defensive end strip-sacks your QB (Brian Burns of Panthers has done it two weeks in a row, Grosse-Matos got one) and when everyone unpiles, guy with the ball at bottom is the only thing that counts. Dak Prescott (Dallas) throws for 502 yards and 4 TDs but Cowboys get taken to the shed 49-38 by the Cleveland Browns, all he gets is a quick “nice try, see you next week.”
Op-Ed – Off my chest
Debate-wise, there was nothing good to say about the embarassing level of negativity that the president pumped into the event for the entire 90 minutes on Tuesday. Having gotten my fill of athletic achievement the last two months, one experience I won’t repeat is watching even as much as the four brief snips of that debate I checked out. There was no honor or triumph to be had there, and trump’s ‘tactics’ certainly aren’t any ‘normal’ I believe befits the leader of this country. (Okay, a little editorializing)
The Panthers won because Coach Rhule seems to use almost everyone on the roster. Teddy Bridgewater has a steady hand on the wheel – more 13-play, 66 yard drives please! – and the coaches he brought to Charlotte, Snow and Joe Brady, who won the Broyles Award as the top assistant in college football last year, have made a difference quickly.
Tadej Pogačar won the Tour de France because he combined superb mountain climbing with the strength of will to triumph over 2,165 miles (21 stages, 23 days). America, unfortunately, will have to wait considerably longer to gain any real victory over COVID-19, but the potential dictator thing – thats over on November 3rd (or so).
And yessir, its true, “hunkered down” is just a little bit better with a 60″ screen and Tony Romo. (OH BOY! Monday Night Football is a double header!)
Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises