Five things I liked about the Panthers’ 20-17 win over Chicago, which pushed the team to 2-0:
1. Rookie running back Jonathan Stewart, who had his breakout game. Against a Bears defense that totally stuffed the Panthers in the first half – only two first downs for Carolina in the first half! – Stewart was The Man in the second. He scored the first two TDs of his NFL career.
2. Carolina’s stout defense. The Panthers’ defense was superb, especially in the second half. One of Chicago’s TDs was off a punt block; the other came on a very short field after a Jake Delhomme interception. Otherwise, the defense did what it needed to do, including stopping the Bears twice in the final four minutes when Chicago only needed a field goal to tie and send it into overtime. The fourth-down stop on Chicago's last possession at midfield was particularly impressive, as the Bears had a second-and-1 on that series and never gained another yard.
3. Jake Delhomme’s spunk. Delhomme was nearly decapitated by a hit (that wasn’t penalized) from Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs on a scramble. But Delhomme came back right after that to lead the Panthers to two straight TD drives. And he came off the field – which finally got the fans into the game -- after the Briggs hit while pounding his heart and screaming. The guy is feisty, give him credit.
4. John Fox’s halftime adjustments. The Panthers were terrible offensively in the first half and were getting penalized about every third play. Fox got them to clean it up in the second half, and the offense opened it up a little (mostly on first and second downs). And it worked.
5. The crowd. It was loud – mostly in the second half – and it was large. There were very few empty seats. They got rewarded by a Panther team that has traditionally been very mediocre under Fox at home, winning a big one.
Two things I didn’t like:
1. I picked Carolina to win, 20-16, in The Charlotte Observer Sunday morning, and it was 20-17. Close just isn’t good enough!
2. The “Shades of Dan Henning” on third down for Carolina, over and over again. The Panthers ran the ball too often on third down and with very little success.