Panthers 7-0 After Rainy Monday Night Almost Slipped Away

Two essential Truths about unbeaten teams are that not everything is going to work perfectly, so sometimes you’re going to have to buckle it on *strong* and WIN the game, dammit! Secondly, clutch field goal kicking is going to figure in there significantly.

For the vast majority of Monday nights 29-26 victory, in front of an above-average crowd that endured steady and sometimes heavy rain (bless their hearts), the vaunted Panther defense made Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck look exceptionally human. The Colts had only 40 yards passing after three quarters, and he leads the league with 12 INTs after Carolina picked three, including the gamer in overtime. After Cam Newton’s TD pass (16-of-35, 248 yds., 2nd TD- Philly Brown) to Greg Olsen, the 23-6 lead looked like a kickin’, even though Gano missed the PAT.

Luck’s final yardage was 231, but overtime belonged to the kickers. The Colts Adam Viniteri, showed his chops with another clutch kick in his career-long string, thumping a 50-yarder, then Gano answered with one. After Kuechly, who dropped an interception possibility at the end of regulation, grabbed one in OT– Ted Ginn also dropped a possible TD in admittedly lousy conditions– Gano took care of business with a strong 52-yarder.

If the game looked kind of ‘Done Deal’ after the Olsen TD, its going to help Charlotte (and fans) in the future, because it became a game where that ‘unbeaten’ could have come off their resume. When they beat Seattle two weeks ago, that certainly charged expectations up, Seattle being a constant pain over the last couple meetings. Of COURSE there’s a whooooole lot of ‘Can they beat Green Bay/Aaron Rodgers?’ now, and thats a legitimate question. Should it make any difference that Rodgers had an ugly night vs. Denver and might have a chip on his shoulder when he gets to Bank of America stadium? In a word,’No’, because stopping his usual surgery on offense will test whats been the teams strength–its D– and you *HAVE* to nullify his big plays to win in all cases.

Moral victories don’t count, and no denying Green Bay is a premier team. It will be a massive game, and there’s every reason for a full stadium till the end, which is, or should be, a standard for this level of event. The Panthers haven’t been ‘Lucky’ yet in getting to 7-0— even without Charles Johnson (knee) and Kuechly (out three games, concussion protocols), the defense has been flexible with personnel, AJ Kline and Shaq Thompson stepped up, and opportunistic– two of ace cornerback Josh Norman’s 4 picks were returned for TDs. While TV analyst John Gruden continued to sound pessimistic about having Newton run as frequently as he has this year, his 41 looked good, and his 3rd down conversion rate has helped Carolina’s running game all season.

The Hornets have picked up their game with a 2nd win, after stumbling out of the starting game 0-3. Last night they rode (Less Big?) Al Jefferson’s 15-18 shooting for 31 points to bury the Dallas Mavs 108-94. Much has been made of Al being 25 pounds lighter this season, but it was an excellent team scoring effort, which was essentially the Hornets ‘must fix’ problem from last year. Marvin Williams-17, Kemba Walker-14, Cody Zeller-11– and with ALL due respect for Jeremy Lamb’s 16 off the bench— Coach Caldwell can continue blending process on where points come from.

Frank Kaminsky hasn’t been overwhelming yet, and losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (MKG) to a shoulder injury at end of pre-season are adjustments to continue. Caldwell, who is dealing with many new and clearly talented parts very successfully, feels getting roles set is a priority, even after a 7-1 preseason that included a pair of victories in China.

Booing for W’s? Nahh, Otherwise Philly…

As I’ve maintained throughout the Bobcat years– especially when owner Bob Johnson complained about not getting the community love he’d expected– if there is anyplace that knows what good hoops looked like, it was North Carolina. I also opined that since people could watch at least two ACC games/their alma maters a week for free, ‘supporting’ over-priced nobodies (sorry Mr. Wallace) that even Hubie Brown couldn’t coach wasn’t high on a lot of people’s lists.

Yes, the home opener featuring the return of Hornets name and that knowledge base presented a mixed emotional bag; the crowd certainly had expectations for Victory #1, since Milwaukee was last years worst club. In the third quarter theHornets were down 24 and playing lousy enough to elicit significant boos says something; giving them props for actually turning things around for a 108-106 overtime win is equally legitimate. While Kemba Walker went 9-28 FGs, he nailed both the tying trey in regulation and the gamer; the chances of very many more victories will diminish with 31% shooting nights. Its every fans right to express displeasure in the product being presented– as Madden memorably said, “Philly fans even boo Santa Claus.” (I saw the game, it was a pretty raggedy, stupid acting Santa), and I salute the crowd for their candor, especially since it worked.
There must’ve been a couple fans who were willing to try motivating more inspired play by expressing displeasure at the big Thursday night Panthers-Saints game as well. The final was 28-10, but if you watched it, you never got any feeling the now 3-4-1 Panthers would come out on top. Okay, nice that Cam’s running effectively again, his big stretch to stick a TD in at the cone another of those things we will definitely cheer, and become antsy about when its lacking.

Two weeks ago commentator Howie Long said this wasn’t the 2013 Panthers #2-rated in league defense, which provided the backbone to their 12-4 record. If you allow (I don’t) for “we don’t have Greg Hardy” laments, the secondary hasn’t been getting toasted as regularly as many might’ve suspected; clearly, getting field goals offensively instead of TDs has killed them, even more than fact other teams keep putting together multi-play drives on the D. Moral victories for defensive intensity in a 13-9 loss the previous week to Seattle Seahawks mean nothing– I was pretty sure those 3 FGs by the Panthers Gano would be cancelled out if Russell Wilson of Seattle put a single drive together, and thats exactly what happened.

There was some booing done Thursday, although my noise at home was more groaning-griping about Panthers trying to cover Saints freaking star tight end Jimmy Graham one-on-one. I’m a Drew Brees fan, and he probably could’ve passed to someone else if Graham was doubled, but it looked like pitch and catch at times. This moves the Saints back into divisional lead, but almost everyone in the NFC South is still in the hunt on that point.

I’ll reserve booing at this point, although I believe it actually made a difference at the Hornets game. If booing always worked, Philly would be a dominant contender in every sport; right now I WOULD actually boo if that would eliminate the next 150 Hagan-Tillis ads I’ll inevitably be subjected to between now and Tuesday night. This Senate race is a STUNNINGLY ugly piece of negativity– there’s not a commentator in the country that doesn’t mention the mudslinging that **$200 MILLION** in outside funding has financed. How does that *obvious* a twisting of ‘voting voice’ truly relate to that of the North Carolina electorate? I don’t know, but yeah, I’d boo! it.

Glenn S.