The Panthers just finished off a 16-14 road loss to New Orleans -- easily their best game of the season, but still a defeat that dropped them to 0-4.
Given the closeness of this one and the number of nice things the Panthers did in defeat, I'm modifying my normal "5 things I didn't like" blog today to make it "5 things I didn't like and 3 I did." (Also, I wrote my column about this game on Jimmy Clausen's up-and-down afternoon and also a story about DeAngelo Williams living and dying by the cutback run.)
5 things I didn't like:
1) The Panthers managed their final few offensive plays very badly, turning a second-and-8 from the New Orleans 36 with 1:35 left (and needing only a field goal) to a fourth-and-16 on New Orleans' 44 with 0:08 left. Needless to say, that (and targeting the unreliable Dwayne Jarrett on the final heave) didn't work.
2) Jimmy Clausen and DeAngelo Williams both took four-yard losses during that series (DeAngelo trying to make a cutback run, Clausen taking a sack) that took John Kasay out of field-goal range.
3) The Panthers seemed intent on using all of their timeouts before they ever needed to because they couldn't get their plays in (in the first half, there was an issue with the device in Clausen's helmet, and Matt Moore had to hand-signal the plays in to him).
4) Third-down conversions. The Saints were 8-of-14; Carolina was 4-of-12. This helped the Saints take a 27-10 advantage in first downs -- they seemed to have the ball the entire game.
5) Chris Gamble's 46-yard pass interference penalty. Gamble, by now, should know that if you don't ever turn around and run up a guy's back, you're going to get flagged.
3 things I did like:
1) Carolina's bend-don't-break defense actually worked, holding the powerful Saints offense to 16 points, in part due to two big fumble recoveries by James Anderson.
2) Carolina doubled its offensive output from the past two weeks, scoring 14 points instead of its normal 7 thanks to huge plays from the "Double Trouble" tandem of Jonathan Stewart (a 55-yard touchdown catch) and DeAngelo Williams (a 39-yard cutback run).
3) No turnovers from Clausen. The rookie made his mistakes, but he didn't turn it over once today, which helped keep Carolina in the game. And his fourth-down scramble and conversion on that last, ultimately unsuccessful drive was a big-time play.