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Panthers defeat Saints to finish season 8-8

4 January 2010 3 comments
Where was this team at the beginning of the season?

After finishing off the Saints 23-10 today, the Panthers completed the 2009 campaign on a 3-game winning streak to finish the season at 8-8, and even though they are not going to the playoffs it was nice to see them finish up on a winning note. Because of the injuries that were suffered during the season a lot of reserves got valuable playing time and gained a lot of experience for the future, and a lot of players could have played themselves into more prominent roles in 20101.

I am excited for what this team can do in 2010. It all starts with the draft in April, and after that it begins with mini-camps and training camp. I think this team has a chance to contend next season, primarily because they will get back several key players who went down with injuries in 2009, and also because the defense now has a full season under Ron Meeks’ system2.

Over the next few months I plan to re-evaluate what went wrong in 2009 (with more depth than “Davidson sucks” or “Delhomme is crap”) and I also plan to weigh in on the draft and free agent signings (if there are any).

Of course, I wish I could be evaluating a Panthers playoff game for next weekend, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be.

But, as the old adage goes: there’s always next year.

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1 – The main one being Matt Moore. If he hasn’t at least earned an open quarterback competition with Delhomme and/or a draft pick or free agent in training camp next year, he may as well quit now because there’s nothing else he can do to prove himself.

2 – They consistently improved week to week under the Meeks system, and it can only improve after adjusting to the new scheme over the course of a full season.

Panthers look to finish season on a high note

2 January 2010 Leave a comment
The Panthers are hoping to finish the season on a 3 game winning streak and with a .500 record as they prepare to finish out this injury plagued campaign with a home game against the NFC South champion New Orleans Saints.

The Panthers have caught fire recently and have played like the team that many thought they would be all season long, but unfortunately it is a case of too little, too late for this squad as they have apparently found their groove under the leadership of 3rd year quarterback Matt Moore, who has started the last 5 games of the season after Jake Delhomme went down with a broken finger in Week 12 against the Jets1.

Moore’s play should at least guarantee that there will be an open quarterback competition in training camp next season, if it doesn’t cement his name in the starting lineup and put Delhomme at either #2 on the depth chart or on another roster.

But, before anyone can worry about next year, there is still one more game to be played. The Panthers hope to close the year with a win to avoid a losing season and to have some momentum to build on for next year. Moore could also use the boost in confidence that would come with a strong outing, as he could use the extra time on the field to help him contend for the starting position next season.

Or, hopefully Moore can prove that once and for all he deserves to be the starter, and he can show that the Panthers knew what they were doing when they signed him 3 years ago as the heir apparent to Delhomme’s position.

That is if Fox will ever admit that it’s time for a change.

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1 – Delhomme has been on IR since December 24.

How bout them apples?

27 December 2009 Leave a comment

Wow! I knew the Panthers were capable of beating anybody in the league if they would get their act together and play up to their potential, but I never thought they would completely dismantle the Giants like they did today. 41-9 … are you kidding me? That’s freaking awesome. The only thing that would have made this win better for me is if the Panthers could have clinched a playoff spot — but oh well, I’ll take it anyway.

Thanks to the joy of holiday travel I was unable to watch the game on tv, but I was fortunate to listen to the majority of it on the radio as I was on the road for most of the morning with my family, and I really wish that I could have watched today’s game. There’s just something special about seeing your favorite team obliterate another team on Sunday afternoon, but I guess I’ll have to settle for listening to it on the radio.

This win is the Panthers’ 2nd in a row against teams either in the playoffs or in the hunt for a playoff spot, and even though it is nice to see these performances at the end of a non-playoff season it makes me wonder where this team was earlier in the year when they still had a chance to make a Super Bowl run.

But, a win’s a win, and there’s not much to complain about based on what I’ve seen over the past two games. And, I really believe that Matt Moore has solidified his case for the new starting quarterback — because if his performances over the past two games hasn’t convinced Fox that he deserves the job, I don’t think he ever will.

The injuries just keep coming

16 December 2009 Leave a comment

The Panthers have placed RT Jeff Otah on injured reserve, ending his season.

Sometimes, you just have to accept the fact that your team is going to be one of the unfortunate ones to suffer through an injury-ridden season, and you have to accept the fact that your team will not perform up to the standard that you had set for them at the beginning of training camp.

I knew it was a bad sign when Ma’ake Kemoeatu went down on the first day of training camp (the first day!) with a season ending ACL injury, but I never would have imagined that injuries would have dominated the Panthers this season the way they ruthlessly have.

Take a look at this list of players:

Ma’ake Kemoeatu
Josh McCown
Louis Leonard
Thomas Davis
Jordan Gross
Jeff Otah
Jake Delhomme
Chris Harris
Charles Godfrey
Deangelo Williams
Julius Peppers1

Do you notice a common thread among these players? These are all players that have missed at least 1 game due to injury this season or have been placed on IR.

This is not just some random group of people — we’re talking about the anchors of the offensive line (Gross and Otah), one half of the most important part of the offense (Williams), and three of the leaders on defense (Peppers, Davis, and Harris) — and not to mention the starting and backup quarterbacks2.

Have the Panthers played up to expectations? No, of course not. But, they have had a lot to deal with this season: poor quarterback play, terrible coaching and game-planning, and key players missing due to injuries. It’s really no surprise that they are 5-8 and out of contention for the playoffs.3

Oh well, there’s always next year I guess.

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1 – Peppers didn’t miss any games due to injury, but he was only available on obvious passing situations (ie – 3rd and long) for two weeks because of a broken hand.

2 – Ok, I will admit this one isn’t that bad, but still — if I’m going to make excuses for why the Panthers suck this year, I might as well milk it as much as I can.

3 – They’re still mathematically alive at this point, but a lot has to happen for them to sneak in the back door and take the 6 seed — so much that I don’t see it happening and have prepared myself to jump on a bandwagon once the playoffs start.

Looks like Moore will get another start

10 December 2009 Leave a comment

Nothing has been confirmed yet (because we all know that Fox likes to keep his opponents guessing until the last possible nanosecond), but it appears that Matt Moore will start for Carolina this Sunday against the Patriots because Jake Delhomme is still unable to grip and throw a football1 due to his broken finger.

I hope that Moore gets the start, because I’m anxious to see what he can do against a formidable opponent. The 1-10 (now 1-11) Buccaneers playing without their best CB2 didn’t really give the proper challenge to find out just how good (or bad) Moore is.

Sure, it was a nice way to shake off the rust from riding the bench for 2 years, but now is the time to really evaluate what he has for the future so the front office knows how to handle next year’s draft.

The Patriots will be in a pissy mood after losing to Miami last week, and will be playing at home, where they are 6-0 on the season. Hopefully the Panthers can pick up a much-needed win and move to 6-7 and get some help from a few other teams and get back in the wild card hunt3.

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1 – Not that he could really throw it before.

2 – Aqib Talib

3 – I have to keep my hopes up until they are mathematically out.

Moore played as expected, and the Panthers win

6 December 2009 Leave a comment

The winds of change swiftly blew through the confines of Bank of America Stadium earlier today when the Panthers took the field behind the leadership of 3rd year quarterback Matt Moore. Fans were eager with anticipation to discover what Moore would bring to the table for the Panthers this week after suffering through multiple disasters through the first eleven games of the season with Jake Delhomme under center, and Moore could almost do no wrong in the eyes of a loyal fan base who has stuck with the team through many hard times over the course of this season.

The bottom line is simple: the Panthers have played well below the expectations that the fans had for them this season1. Coming off a 12-4 NFC South title season that ended in an embarrassing loss to the hands of the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs, most fans felt that the Panthers would use that loss as inspiration to come out firing on all cylinders to prove the naysayers wrong — and Delhomme would use his ultimate stink job as inspiration to prove to the world that he was not done, that he had something left in the tank, and that he was still a viable option at the most important position on the football field.

Panthers head coach John Fox believed in his quarterback this season. The front office believed in their quarterback this season (enough that they gave him a contract extension after the Arizona debacle). The players believed in their quarterback this season, showing their support for him when he was going through the most difficult of times.

But, the fans didn’t believe in their quarterback. The fans called for a change after the stink job Delhomme pulled out against the Eagles in week 1. The fans called for a change after the team fell to an 0-3 start heading into the bye week (when everyone thought they should have been 2-1 at worst). The fans called for a change when the Bills came to town and left with a victory2.

But, Fox has stuck by his quarterback through thick and thin. Like him or not, you have to give Fox credit for his loyalty (even if it is to a fault). You can call shenanigans on Fox for saying that Delhomme “gives us the best chance to win”, but you can’t deny the fact that Fox is trying to do something that the fan base has apparently forgotten to do: remember what Delhomme did for us in the past, and instill confidence in Delhomme that he can do it again in the future.

I know, I know — you can’t rely on the past to satisfy what is going on in the present. But from a coach’s standpoint, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt for being a little reluctant to believe that Delhomme’s career is over. He’s done so much for the franchise that he has been given chance after chance to resurrect his career, and even though he has failed at pulling a Lazarus and coming back from the dead — you have to at least respect Fox for giving him ample opportunity to do so.

Even though he’s had several chances to get back to 2003 form, Delhomme has been unsuccessful. We all know he has stunk it up on several occasions this year. There’s no need to rehash that here. That’s not really what this is about. This is about the team as a whole, and what the team should expect from the quarterback position.

Let’s face it: we don’t have Tom Brady or Peyton Manning under center, and unless we get extremely fortunate in the draft this offseason, we won’t have a “Tom Brady” or “Peyton Manning” under center in the near future. What we have is Jake Delhomme, a quarterback who was never supposed to amount to anything more than a career backup, and Matt Moore, who is currently in a situation where he has been waiting for his opportunity to prove that he has what it takes to lead a team in the NFL.

Due to an injury to a finger on Delhomme’s throwing hand, Moore was given that opportunity today against the 1-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers trusted Moore to do one thing: avoid losing the game. He wasn’t instructed to go out and destroy the Bucs’ defense, he wasn’t supposed to lead 99-yard touchdown drives, and he wasn’t supposed to throw for 400 yards.

He was supposed to manage the game and allow the running attack to flourish by taking a few shots deep down field to keep the defense honest enough to respect the running game and eliminate the 8 and 9 man boxes that the Panthers have seen in previous weeks.

When you break it down and realize what Moore was supposed to do, and look at what he actually did — it’s hard to call today’s effort a failure. Sure, he didn’t go out on the field and dominate the game. He didn’t throw for 400 yards (he didn’t even throw for 200), and he didn’t throw 5 touchdown passes.

But, he also didn’t throw 5 interceptions and he didn’t have a terrible day. He led the team on a successful touchdown drive in the first quarter, and he led the team to three successful scoring drives throughout the rest of the game (3 Kasay FG’s)3.

Of course it can be argued that Moore benefited from a solid red-zone defense (especially by Jon Beason)4. But, allow me to counter-argue that he benefited from that red-zone defense because he didn’t turn the ball over and give the opposing offense a short field to work with. In other words: he gave the defense a fighting chance to make plays.

For the stat-heads, Moore’s final stat line looked like this:

14/20, 161 YDS, 0 TD, 1 INT, 73.1 RATING

Sure, those stats don’t jump out as a dominating performance. But he completed 70% of his passes (including a sweet 66 yard bomb to Steve Smith), and he didn’t make many mistakes throwing the ball (the interception was off a tipped pass and unfortunate ricochet for the Panthers). A 73.1 rating isn’t spectacular, but would anyone like to guess what Delhomme’s passer rating is this season? It’s 59.4 in case you really wanted to know. So while Moore wasn’t spectacular — he was better than the man he replaced.

Was he good enough to win the starting job outright? I think so, but I don’t think that Fox agrees with my assessment. I don’t think that his performance stood out as “wow, we have to start this guy for the rest of the season” to Fox and the rest of the coaching staff. I think that once Delhomme’s finger has healed he will get back into the starting lineup, until he either gets hurt again or stinks even worse than he already has this year. (And, it is possible — see Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell, for example.)

But, just because I think that Fox will go back to Delhomme doesn’t mean that I think he would be making the right decision5. I personally believe that Moore should be in the lineup for the rest of the year, if for nothing else but to have a true look at what he can bring to the table. (Today’s game could be an aberration on either side — he could throw for 400 yards every game from here on out, or this could be his best performance — either way, we won’t know unless he plays.)

Hopefully Fox will approach this situation from the perspective of a talent scout instead of a loyal friend who wants to squeeze as much out of his quarterback as he possibly can, and hopefully Fox will be open enough to see that maybe Moore actually gives this team the best chance to win. He may not have been as pretty as we would have hoped, but he was efficient enough to get a win.

And at this point in the season, that’s all that really matters.

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1 – That’s being nice. The mean version: The Panthers have played like dog shit all season.

2 – This was the breaking point for me. We should have destroyed the Bills, and the fact that we didn’t meant something had to be done.

3 – He should get brownie points because he had to lead this team without DeAngelo Williams, which made this game even more difficult for him.

4 – Beason activated beast mode today with 2 (yes, 2) goal-line interceptions.

5 – Translation: it would be the dumbest move he has made all year.

Moore will finally get his chance

3 December 2009 4 comments

It’s official. Matt Moore will start for the Panthers this Sunday against the Bucs1.

It wasn’t really a secret, though. Everyone knew this was going to happen, even if Fox refused to publicly state it through the media until today.

Rotoworld:

Matt Moore will start Sunday’s game against the Bucs, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This is the worst kept secret in football. Jake Delhomme is dealing with a broken middle finger on his throwing hand and may have been benched anyway, but coach John Fox was trying to maintain a “competitive advantage” by keeping his starter a secret.

I’m looking forward to finding out what Moore brings to the table this week. I hope it’s enough to keep him in the starting slot for the rest of the season, and I hope that he can prove that he really is the quarterback of the future in Carolina.

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1 – On a side note: If the Panthers win, they will be guaranteed to finish no worse than 3rd in the division (1st place is out of the equation, and they would have an outside shot at 2nd, but most likely would finish 3rd). A Panthers win would mean that an 0-5 finish for Carolina and a 5-0 finish for Tampa Bay would put them both at 5-11, with Carolina winning the head-to-head series. It’s sad that the season has come to the point where I’m figuring this stuff out.

Categories: Regular Season