Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bests and worsts from Carolina Panthers' 34-29 loss to Chicago Bears

Going to extremes after the Panthers drop to 1-3 with a 34-29 loss to Chicago Sunday:

Worst ratio of success: Throwing the ball to Legedu Naanee. Newton targeted Naanee 11 times -- more than any other Panther receiver. Naanee only caught four of those. That wasn't all his fault -- some of the throws were bad -- but why is this guy getting more chances at receptions than players with a far better track record? (Steve Smith caught eight of the 10 passes targeted to him; Greg Olsen five of a possible seven).

Worst player to face for Carolina: Matt Forte. He's not an all-star all the time -- he had only two yards on nine carries a week ago -- but Forte has been a Panther killer the past two years. Remember 2010? He had four carries, 101 yards and two touchdowns -- in the first quarter!
This time, he was even better. Forte had a career-high 205 rushing yards on 25 carries to pace the Bears' win.

Best Cam stat: Cam Newton has now thrown for more than 350 yards in 3 of his 4 career NFL games.

Worst Cam stat: The Panthers have lost all those games, but won the one where Newton threw for 158 but didn't commit a turnover.

Worst idea: Kicking a punt to Chicago's amazing Devin Hester.
Jason Baker attempting a rugby-style kick from the middle of the field was very questionable, but why not just target the ball out of bounds, have a 35-yard net and be done with it? Instead, Hester scooted 69 yards on his only punt return of the game to set another NFL record.
I understand kicking off to Hester, as Olindo Mare is going to boot it through the end zone half the time and nearly did on the one Hester took back for 73 yards. But kicking punts to Hester? Ever?! That's just poor decision-making.

Best toughness: How does Steve Smith get up after some of those hits? He took a couple that looked like they should have induced a concussion and still stayed in the game and gained 181 yards receiving -- the sixth-best total in Carolina history.

Best/worst combo of the week: The Panthers' running game. It finally got going, as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for well over 100 yards. But Carolina couldn't get it to work early in the fourth quarter and quickly abandoned it after that.

Worst "How did the Panthers not win this game?" stat: Carolina outgained Chicago by a 543-317 margin from scrimmage.

Best former Panther: Julius Peppers had a field-goal block this season (Olindo Mare got too far under the kick and hit it too low, but Peppers still made a spectacular play). That goes along with the interception Peppers had last season in this game.

Best trend: For the fourth time in four weeks, the Panthers were in the game in the fourth quarter with a chance to win. They still don't know how to finish games, but at least they are in them.

Worst unit: Special teams gets the nod in a fairly close battler with the defense. The special-teams errors were numerous and in several cases game-changing: Mare missed two field goals (one was blocked); the coverage units allowed two huge returns to Hester and the Panthers' kickoff team seems to run every kickoff back to the short side of the field for no more than 20 yards every single time.