By: Allan Erickson
Boy oh boy. Something about Thursday nights performance against the Bucs left you scratching your head as Panther fans. What was Norv Turner thinking? Is Cam Newton REALLY healthy? What happened to Darryl Williams? And how can a defense that prides itself on takeaways not make the turnover-prone Jameis Winston give the ball away?
The defense played decent on Thursday night, but they didn’t get enough pressure on Winston. He was comfortable in the pocket and was able to throw the ball to receivers who had created space due to the lack of pass rush. The Panthers defense was outstanding on 3rd down allowing just 2 conversions, so they were getting off the field. Unfortunately, the offense didn’t capitalize on the opportunities, the defense spent way too much time on the field due to the 3-and-outs from Cam Newton and company.
Which leads to my next question- is Cam Newton 100% or even close to it? This is the second week in a row we’ve seen him over and underthrow wide open wide receivers. Curtis Samuel should’ve had 3 touchdowns on Thursday night. Even on the 44-yard completion, Cam underthrew Samuel which allowed the defender to catch up to him and make the tackle on what should’ve been a walk-in touchdown. Cam is not getting much help from his offensive line, but when he is well-protected, he’s missing wide-open targets, and the Panthers are paying the price. It’s not time to bench Cam, because there’s nowhere near a viable option behind him, but you have to wonder if Cam is really playing healthy because it doesn’t look like he’s himself. 5 carries, -2 yards and a fumble on the season. That’s not the dual-threat Cam Newton we’re used to seeing.
Darryl Williams, to put it nicely, was getting abused all night long at left tackle. It honestly made me feel bad watching him struggle the way he did. He was beat with speed, power, and athleticism, and we’re used to being able to count on Williams as a solid player. If I was going to grade him it would be an F- for the performance on Thursday night. This is a guy who’s on a 1-year “prove it” contract. Unfortunately, he proved incompetent on Thursday night. He needs to get back to being hungry, aggressive, and prove himself as a center-piece in this offense.
Last, and most importantly, why in the world did Norv Turner call a trick play to the short side of the field on 4th and 1/2 yard down inside the 2-yard line? Cam Newton has NEVER failed on a sneak-attempt. Seeing that he’s 6’5 250 pounds, all he needed to do was fall forward to at worst, convert that 4th down late in the game. Instead, we saw a fake reverse power play out of the wildcat formation to the short side of the field. The Bucs sniffed it out, and the Panthers lost yet another game by 1 possession. These are the games you circle on the calendar as “must-wins.” You’ve got the Bucs coming to Bank Of America Stadium, that’s a game you need to win if you want to make the playoffs. This team is far from a playoff team despite the talent on this roster. The seat continues to grow hotter for Ron Rivera and his staff. We’ll see if he can turn it around against Kyler Murray and company next week.
Until next time, y’all keep pounding. And remember, it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.