Hi everyone: I'm back from a week off, and watched the Panthers' 28-21 loss to Arizona on TV like a lot of the rest of you Sunday. At the suggestion of some regular blog readers, I am replacing the "5 things I liked" or "5 things I didn't like" postgame online blog (depending on whether Panthers won or lost) with a new "Bests and Worsts" format.
This should allow me to get into more postgame shades of gray, since most games (this year at least) will have some good and bad in them. So here we go. Feel free to add your own bests and worsts at the bottom, but keep them clean:
Worst telecast: Fox really botched up this game. Most noticeably were the early signal failures, which turned my screen to black at least three times in the first quarter (this happened to you too, right?) Also, how many years does Steve Smith have to be in the league before play-by-play man Sam Rosen stops referring to him occasionally as "Steven"? That's not even the long version of his name -- it's Stevonne.
Analyst Chad Pennington was obviously breaking in as a rookie analyst and didn't add (or subtract) much. He sure likes to use the phrase "put his foot in the ground" a lot -- isn't that the way people always run?
I really didn't like the fact that we got no replays to speak of on the early downs of the Panthers' final five plays near the Arizona goal line (no way to tell how close Greg Olsen was to remaining inbounds, etc).
Best debut: Cam Newton, obviously. I've been a fan of the Newton pick for many months, since well before it occurred, but I was shocked at how well he did (422 passing yards, 3 total TDs).
Worst sequence: In those final five plays from at or inside the Arizona 11, Newton never threw once to Steve Smith. I don't blame this just on the quarterbacking, but on the play-calling, too. Throwing twice to Legedu Naanee?! Really?
Worst trend: If Carolina can't run the ball better than that (27 carries, 74 yards), teams are going to unload on Newton way too often. As exciting as all the passing was, the Panthers need a lot more 5-yard running plays.
Best re-emergence: 178 yards and two TDs for Smith undoubtedly made a lot of fantasy football owners regret not playing him (same goes for Cam, I'm sure).
Best tweet: Former NFL MVP Kurt Warner, who criticized the Newton draft pick pretty harshly right after it was made, sent out this tweet.
"Big enough man to admit when wrong: Cam Newton is impressing me today! Said he wouldn't b ready, but sure looks like he is to me!"(Note: Thanks to SwimMAC Carolina CEO/Director of Coaching David Marsh, who directs a number of current and future Olympians at that excellent program, for pointing out Warner's tweet to me).
Best revenge: Former Panther Jeff King scored on a 48-yard pass on a botched Panther coverage, which was a career long for a player mostly used as a blocking tight end during John Fox's tenure.
Worst news: Panther Pro Bowl LB Jon Beason may well be lost for all or part of the season after getting hurt while desperately trying to chase down King. (UPDATE: Beason has indeed been lost for the season due to tearing his Achilles on the play).
Worst trend: The Panthers allowed three TD plays of 48 yards or longer (a 70-yard pass and an 89-yard punt return were the others). Those breakdowns were ultimately the difference, because 21 points will win you a lot of NFL games.
Best defensive presence: Charles Johnson, who looked worth the money Sunday with a sack, a near-interception and at least a couple of hurries.
Worst mistake: Both Mike Goodson and Jordan Pugh were downfield in time to cover Patrick Peterson's punt return, but ran right by him, figuring Patrick Peterson was going to let the ball go. They were playing for maybe 10 yards of field position, tops -- instead, Peterson fooled everyone by grabbing the ball and going 89 yards the other way. And shouldn't Jason Baker's kick have been higher to begin with to force a fair catch?
Bottom line: No way that play should have ever happened.
Worst fourth quarter: Jordan Pugh. Not only was he involved in the punt return mistake, he also blew the coverage when Early Doucet went 70 yards for the TD to tie the game at 21.
Worst fumble: Beanie Wells simply dropped a pitchout inside Carolina's 10 -- he might have scored if he caught it. Arizona could have easily had more than 28, coming up empty on that drive and another inside Carolina's 10, too.