Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers dreadful performance against the Denver Broncos.
If you’re a Panthers fan who wants Ron Rivera gone like I do, then this was the perfect game. After jumping out to a 7-0 lead, almost nothing went right for the team. Peyton Manning carved up the weak secondary, the run game was non-existent, and Cam Newton had no time to throw. The terrible special teams, which has gotten overlooked these past few years, continued to be terrible by giving up a couple of big returns, including a punt return for a touchdown. Even when the team did something right on defense, like force a turnover, the offense failed to capitalize.
After the Broncos scored two touchdowns in less than two minutes, I’m convinced that this team quit, at least on offense. I didn’t think the offense would be as good as they were last season, but it’s getting kind of pathetic. This team has no identity on offense. They should be an extremely effective run team given the talent they have in the backfield, but that’s not the case. All year Rob Chudzinski has failed to properly use Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Cam Newton, and Mike Tolbert. It was a mistake when the team didn’t trade Williams before the deadline, and now they’re stuck with him and his contract, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if he was getting enough carries. The passing game has really struggled as well. Steve Smith has been quiet all year and the team really seems to be missing Jeremy Shockey. Last year the two tight end set was very effective, but with the loss of Shockey, they’ve completely abandoned that set even though they have three tight ends on the roster. Greg Olsen is a great tight end, who had an outstanding game, but he too could benefit from the extra tight end. Even if you’re not going to use the extra tight end in the pass game, at least bring him in to block. With a banged up offensive line that has a lot of guys playing out of place, Newton isn’t getting enough time to throw the ball.
Take nothing away from the Denver defense, which is finally coming around after a slow start, but this was a bad performance by the Panthers offensive line and play calling. After using the screen pass so effectively on the touchdown drive, they went away from it for pretty much the rest of the game. And when they did go back to it, it worked, but the team would take a dumb penalty. The Denver defense was pretty much laughing at the Panthers all game and they constantly mocked Cam’s superman pose.
I don’t want to make it seem like I’m taking all the blame away from Newton, because he’s just as at fault as the rest of the guys considering that he’s the quarterback and he’s supposed to be the leader. But he’s not in a good situation right now. That said, his decision making still has to get better and he has to stop trying to do too much. He needs to get rid of the ball quicker in a lot of situations as well. That was tough for him this game considering that he was under pressure on every play and the receivers couldn’t get open in time, but it’s been a pattern all season.
Everyone who has watched the Panthers all season knew that Peyton would pretty much have his way with the defense, and he proved them all right. This defense was built for Peyton to breakdown. A weak secondary, a rookie linebacker, and a lackluster pass rush is easy pickings for arguably the best QB of all-time and he made it look easy. I give a lot of credit to Luke Kuechly, who I think is going to be an outstanding linebacker, but he’s too inexperienced to play chess with Manning.
Besides the game against the New York Giants, the Panthers have been competitive in every single game this year. That was not the case this past Sunday. You could make the argument that Rivera just needed another piece or two to get the team over the hump with all these close games. You can’t make that argument any more. The Panthers aren’t a great team and Rivera isn’t a good head coach. I’ve even lost faith in Chudzinski after this year as well. The whole coaching staff needs to go and they need to bring someone in who can make it work with Cam and the pieces around him. I’d love for that man to be Chip Kelly, but I’m not holding my breath. I don’t really care who it is at this point, just give me someone who has won a football game as a head coach before.