There was a lot not to like in the Panthers' 21-7 loss to Dallas, which dropped them to 0-3 at Cowboys Stadium Monday night. But here are 5 of my pet peeves after the game and also here's a link to my postgame column in which I call for the Panthers to bench Jake Delhomme in favor of Matt Moore for Week 4 (I doubt the Panthers will ever do something as radical as that, but that doesn't mean they're right). Anyway, onto the 5 things I didn't like:
1) Panthers' third-down efficiency. They were 1-for-8 on offense, which is one reason they didn't get a first down for the first 24 minutes of the second half (and possessed the ball less than 23 minutes).
2) Julius Peppers. I'll keep saying it over and over again this year until it's not true -- that game was just not worth a million dollars.
3) The "17 to 89" connection. There was a time then Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith used to seem to read each other's minds on the field. Smith would break off a route. Delhomme would read it. Boom -- a freelance play, a huge gain. Smith used to attribute this to the fact both were naturally impatient and thus adjusted in the same way.
But this time, when Smith ran a bad route on a slant pass, Delhomme got picked off and had the ball returned 27 yards by Cowboy Terence Newman for the game-clinching TD. Here's what Newman said about the play by the way: "It was a lucky play on my part, basically. I was just trying to get a jam on him. I got a good hand on him and he tried to re-direct, and I don't know if it was a called slant [it was], but that's what the quarterback threw."
4) Panthers' rushing game on offense. Carolina only had 73 yards rushing against a Dallas team that had struggled mightily against the run for much of the first 2 weeks. That, in turn, led to a lot of Delhomme's problems -- he's just not nearly as good without a strong rushing game.
5) Panthers' rush defense. Give the defense lots of credit for pitching a shutout in the first half -- and for bringing more linebacker pressure to disrupt Tony Romo's timing. But then Dallas just wore the Panthers down in the second half and really should have scored more -- the Cowboys averaged 6.6 yards per carry (32 rushes, 212 yards). Nasty stuff. Still, the defense gave up only one touchdown in this game, and that realistically could have been good enough to win.
But it wasn't. As usual.