Panthers Thoughts – Week Seven: Bye, Nothing Changed

My thoughts on the Carolina Panthers week seven loss to the Dallas Cowboys and a call to get rid of Ron Rivera.

One is an accident, two is a trend, three is a problem. It’s officially a problem in Carolina. The Panthers were once again in the game until the very end and they once again found a way to lose. This time it was due to bad penalties, bad refereeing, and bad play calling. As always, I’m sure a lot of blame will fall on quarterback Cam Newton, but it’s time to point the finger at Ron Rivera.

No one will deny that Rivera is a great defensive coordinator, just look at what he did in Chicago and San Diego, but he’s not a head coach. He has no clue how to manage the clock or crucial situations, which are pretty big deals when you’re a head coach. Properly managing the clock and crucial situations is what separates Bill Belichick from Andy Reid. In this game, Rivera decided to go for it on 4th and 2 when the team was down by 2. Not exactly a bad idea, especially if the team converted. The problem was that the team was in their own territory, the defense had been playing well for the majority of the game, and there was over two minutes on the clock. Still, if the team converts, everyone praises the call. The team didn’t convert though, as the play call was terrible. Instead of running a play action to potentially get the defense to bite, everyone ran a 3 yard curl, and the pass was incomplete. Maybe pass interference could’ve been called, but the refs had been letting the receivers and corners fight it out all game, so it wasn’t exactly a terrible non-call.

That gave the Cowboys the ball back. Rivera failed to call a timeout before the two minute warning and the refs helped out the Cowboys a bit more by flagging James Anderson for a horse collar tackle when the replay showed it being completely clean. The Cowboys eventually kicked a field goal and left the Panthers with just under 50 seconds and no time outs to score a TD. Because they were playing a competent defense, the Cowboys held up and held on for the victory.

When you’re getting out-coached by Jason Garrett, you know you’re not fit to be a head coach.

The Panthers aren’t necessarily a bad team, they’re just not a team that knows how to win. We saw it all last season and we’ve seen it a number of times this season. That falls on the head coach. Rivera is quickly falling into Wade Phillips territory, which will make a number of teams who need a defensive coordinator happy, but doesn’t make Panthers fans very happy.

This doesn’t all fall on Rivera though. I have to put a bit of the blame on the coordinators, specifically Rob Chudzinski, who runs the offense. Last season Chudzinski looked like a genius for his ability to use Cam Newton. This season he’s failed to adapt and change to the defenses, who are no longer caught off guard. Chudzinski has arguably the best stable of runners in the league with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, and Newton and yet he doesn’t know how to properly use them. The Panthers have a lot of money tied up in those guys and if they’re not going to be used, they need to be moved so the team can spend money on a position that matters, like anyone on defense. Williams is the highest paid skill position player. How is he only carrying the ball two times in this game?

Usually the defense blows the game for the offense, but not this time around. Besides two big plays to Miles Austin, which resulted in the Cowboys only touchdown, the defense played very well. Sure they didn’t record on a single sack, but I’ve given up on them pressuring the quarterback at this point. They also couldn’t intercept Tony Romo, but I’ve also given up on this team winning a turnover battle. Oh yeah, they also couldn’t get off the field on third down, but that’s nothing new either. So basically, when the team doesn’t give up 30 on defense, that’s them playing well.

Newton had an efficient game, throwing for 233 yards and running for 64, but he threw a horrendous interception in the end zone that cost the team at least three points. The offense also failed to convert on third downs, but when the team keeps taking bad penalties that put them in third in long situations, those third downs become tougher to convert. In fairness to the offensive line, it was extremely makeshift this week due to injuries, but not false starting is a discipline thing and they have no discipline. Brandon LaFell stepped up and had a big game and Steve Smith was his usual self, but Louis Murphy had some key drops on third down that would’ve really helped the team if he held on to the football.

This loss would be a big deal if the Panthers season didn’t end after the Atlanta game and everyone couldn’t see it coming a mile away. It’s pretty sad that when the team is involved in a close game in the 4th quarter, you just know that they’re going to come out on the wrong end. I highly doubt anything changes this season, but if the Panthers fail to win five games this season, which is very possible, then the coaching staff needs to undergo major changes.

Rivera is lucky that the Panthers aren’t as relevant as the New York Jets, the Cowboys, or the Philadelphia Eagles, because national media would be calling for his head if anyone was paying attention to how this team finishes games. So until the national media jumps on the “Release Rivera” bandwagon, I’ll be driving it.

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