Carolina has dropped to 0-2 with its 28-20 loss to Atlanta today. We’ll have lots of coverage from our Observer team at the game site in Atlanta, but here are a few things that occurred to me as I watched this one on TV. I’ll break it down into 6 things I didn’t like and 3 that I did.
6 Things I Didn’t Like
1. Julius Peppers. Wow. A million dollars just doesn’t go as far as it used to.
2. Defensive philosophy. Chris Gamble’s coverage on a slant play to Roddy White for a touchdown that happened right in front of him was way too soft and emblematic of a lot of the Panthers’ defensive problems. OK, so Matt Ryan didn’t beat them for 60-yard touchdowns. Instead, he just got 10-15 yards on one pass play after another, and that led to Ryan’s first-ever three-TD passing game in the pros. We’re only two games in, but the Panthers are allowing 33 points per game and the defense under new coordinator Ron Meeks doesn’t look a bit better than it did at the end of 2008.
3. DeAngelo Williams’ fumble. DeAngelo didn’t fumble all of last season or in 2007, either, which is part of the great appeal of the Panthers’ most explosive running back in team history. However, he lost a critical one Sunday – only the second lost fumble in his four-year career.
4. Special-teams breakdown (again). Last week the Panthers allowed a punt-return TD to Philadelphia. This time the Panthers got a punt blocked.
5. The Gonzalez effect. The Panthers couldn’t seem to cover the former Kansas City tight end without interfering with him. Tony Gonzalez – with his incredible hands – had 71 receiving yards and a TD.
6. Fox Sports’ coverage in the final two minutes. The TV coverage seemed fine early but faltered late. There was not enough explanation of the clock runoff for Louis Leonard’s injury, too little credence given to the possibility of a Panthers comeback (with the crew seeming surprised the Panthers ever got themselves in position for that last Hail Mary), a silly and mistimed promo for Fox Sports itself and not enough explanation of why the game was delayed at the end by a final official review.
3 Things I Did Like
1. Jake Delhomme. I thought the Good Jake would resurface, and he did Sunday. His one interception came deep in the fourth quarter, yes, but he had no other choice but to try and force that one in against great Falcons’ coverage – to throw it away was to turn the ball over as well. Otherwise, Delhomme was much better -- 25 for 41 for 308 yards, one TD and one interception.
2. Steve Smith. He and Delhomme were reading the same book once again. They even had the “loft it up and let Steve run under it” play going, and also connected several times in very tight coverage as Smith gained 131 yards receiving.
3. Overall energy level. At least it felt like the Panthers had some passion in this one.
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