Four things I couldn’t stand about the Panthers’ nasty 20-10 loss at Minnesota Sunday, which dropped them to 2-1 on the season:
1) WATCH IT, JAKE... JAKE?!!!
How does Jake Delhomme not see that cornerback blitz late in the first half? It’s not like Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield was coming from the blind side. Yet Delhomme just held it… and held it… and all of a sudden he was sacked and the ball was out and – BOOM – a cheap TD for the Vikes. Carolina’s early 10-3 lead had disappeared and it was 10-all.
That was the play of the game. Everything changed after that. Minnesota would end up scoring the game’s final 20 points. UPDATE: Nick Goings took the blame for not picking up Winfield on this play -- instead, he thought he was clear to run out for a pass. Oops! Still, Delhomme should have seen the guy with his peripheral vision and at least been able to take the sack but not fumble.
2) RUNNING ON EMPTY.
This looked a lot like the past few years when Carolina simply couldn’t run the ball. The Panthers’ offensive line was absolutely overwhelmed by a combination of Minnesota’s powerhouse defensive line and the incessant noise in that indoor stadium. The play the Panthers seemed to run the most was the false start -- they were good at that one. "Pre-snap" penalties continue to hurt the Panthers badly.
3) THE TERRIBLE TIMEOUT.
John Fox’s timeout management is often a curiosity, and there was another example today. As Minnesota’s Ryan Longwell lined up for a fourth-quarter field goal after an endless Viking drive that would make it 20-10, Minnesota, the Panthers called timeout. Most players on the field didn’t hear the whistle, though. The ball was snapped, and safety Chris Harris blocked the kick.
Honestly, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Even if it stays 17-10 there, the Panthers went nowhere the entire second half on offense. Even with Steve Smith out there, they couldn't move it. Still, they would have had a chance if not for the timeout, which basically ended the game. Given a second chance, Longwell booted it through, it became a two-possession game and Carolina was done. UPDATE: Fox called the timeout because he thought Carolina had 12 men on the field. In fact, Carolina only had 11.
4) THE PANTHERS' PASS RUSH.
Carolina got to Gus Frerotte a couple of times, but not enough to rattle the veteran. Instead, Frerotte kept the chains moving and played keepaway almost the entire second half from the Panthers. Here’s how little the TV announcers called Julius Peppers’ name – when Peppers finally made his first sack of the season, play-by-play man Ron Pitts at first called him “Julius Peters.”