The Carolina Panthers absolutely bashed Minnesota on the road Sunday, 35-10, in a surprisingly lopsided game. I thought they would win (see my pick below) but not by that much. Which brings me to five quick observations about the game:
1) Have you ever heard the poem about the little girl with the curl right in the middle of her forehead? Stay with me on this one, because that kid reminds me of the Panthers. When she was good, she was very, very good -- but when she was bad, she was horrid.
That's the Panthers (2-3) this year. They have won their two games 38-0 and 35-10. They have lost three times -- by one, five and 16 points. They still haven't proved to anyone they can win a close game -- but they proved again on Sunday that they are good enough to blow out some teams on the right day.
2) I thought the biggest play of the game was the Panthers going for it on fourth-and-1 and making it from the Minnesota 2 with the score tied 0-0 in the first quarter. Kudos to coach Ron Rivera for going for it on fourth down -- twice! -- in that early drive. Rivera is really changing his stripes in terms of going for fourth-and-1s since that Buffalo debacle. But Steve Smith catching that short pass from Cam Newton (after Smith dropped a potential TD pass in the first quarter last week against Arizona) set the tone for everything that came after. Smith's block later on a Minnesota linebacker was impressive, too, although by then the game was over.
3) The Panther defense was absolutely stifling, getting all over Matt Cassel and mostly shutting down Adrian Peterson. The defense kept making its opportunities count -- Mike Mitchell had two interceptions thrown right to him, yes, but how many times have you seen Panther defensive backs drop those? Thomas Davis made his blitzes count. Greg Hardy had a lot of pressure that caused Cassel to get uncomfortable. The Vikings had scored at least 24 points in each of their first four games.
4) A number of Panther fans had emailed me about getting Derek Anderson into the game, but this wasn't what they had in mind. Anderson came in with 6:02 to go to wind down the clock after Newton played one of his most complete games ever, throwing for three touchdowns, running for another and not having a single turnover. It was a near-perfect day by No.1.
5) The Panthers will need to be good again this coming Sunday at home against St. Louis. The Rams blasted the Houston Texans in much the same way that Carolina blasted Minnesota, winning 38-13, and quarterback Sam Bradford won't make as many mistakes as Cassel did.