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Game Notes - Week Four


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#1 Mr. Scot

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:14 PM

My first experience playing competitive football was in 1975, years before many on here were even born. This was long before the days when people chose not to keep score or worried about hurting their kid’s self-esteem. My pee-wee coach taught all of us some words that 8 to 10 year olds aren’t really supposed to know, and he didn’t do so in a nice way.

Besides the new words in my vocabulary and the basic concepts of football, there were two things I learned clearly from those early days of playing the game.

One: Winning is one of the most addictive highs in all the world.

Two: Losing absolutely, positively, completely, utterly and totally sucks.

Naturally, it sucks even worse when your livelihood depends on how well you play or coach a game. Still worse when you lose to someone you really wanted to beat. That’s why I’m sure the coaches and players are very down in the face of this past Sunday’s loss.

Time to begin the post mortem…

OFFENSE

Still overall a good show, arguably better than the defense this outing, but with an issue or two. Starting with…

THE BIG UGLYS

Great job helping keep Cam Newton upright and protected. The mostly old, somewhat new combo has begun to gel somewhat and the pass game is in a better position to succeed for it. The team handled the Bears pass rush – and especially Julius Peppers – pretty well.

Run blocking is still an issue though, and maybe it will be all year. Honestly, given that the O-Line coach was the coach for the unit in front of the Greatest Show on Turf, maybe that discrepancy shouldn’t be all that big a surprise. I imagine that'll be an emphasis in upcoming practices. Hopefully it produces results.

Unfortunately, a few errors and penalties too. And of course there was the weird "did not report' penalty on Travelle Wharton that negated our lone Wildcat play. For the uninitiated, yes that is a rule, and in there at least in part because some teams run "tackle eligible" formations. Doubt you'll see that happen again.

A quick mention to honorary Big Ugly jeremy Shockey, who looked good handling Julius Peppers one on one :thumbsup:

NEWTON

Cam Newton’s second outing against a cover two type scheme looked better than his first. That’s good, because it means he’s learning. Other than that, not a lot of new ground to cover out of this game. The good is still the good (incredible field vision, rocket launcher arm, run threat that must be accounted for) and the concerns are still the concerns (ball placement, jump passes and arm throws, issues in the Red Zone). Rather than rehashing those things, I want to take a look at a few particular game moments that were memorable from this past Sunday.

First and foremost, the interception. While acknowledging that a tipped ball can’t really be considered all the quarterback’s fault, Fox announcers Billick and Brennaman panned both Newton’s throw and his decision making.

Me? I have no problem with either.

Was it a risky throw? Yes, but that’s what gunslingers do. It also could have been a successful throw had Legedu Naanee just had a little better control. Naanee was between two defenders, so the decision to throw the ball high was the right call. That’s the luxury that a tall receiver is supposed to give you, the ability to throw high and let him outjump everyone. Unfortunately, that just didn’t work out in this case.

Regardless, if I’m a coach reviewing film with him, I tell him “good job” on that throw, and I have no problem if he does the same thing the next time.

The second moment was actually a couple of moments. Specifically, those times when a Bear defensive lineman got a hand on Newton. For a lot of quarterbacks, that hand on the shoulder, arm or whatever either alters their throw, upsets their balance or brings them down altogether. Not Newton. He shrugged them off like they were nothing.

Now everyone will see that and say, “Well, he’s big”. Granted, that’s the primary thing, but what it also shows is a growth in pocket presence and pocket awareness. Those proverbial hands make a fair number of quarterbacks panic a little. At no point did I see Newton look panicky. So while he may yet be seeing “twelve men on the field” he’s getting better at not letting those men affect what he needs to do.

Moment number three was in a similar vein. There was a point - ironically enough in the third if I remember correctly - where someone in the receiving corps lined up in the wrong spot. Newton got his attention and directed him to where he was supposed to line up. I pointed to the screen and excitedly said to my game watching buddy "that’s the kind of thing I want to see."

Newton was able to direct traffic because he understood the play they were running. As the season has rolled on, I’ve seen him doing more and more pre-snap stuff, and that to me is a very positive sign that the offensive concepts are coalescing in his head. Does he have it all down? Likely not yet, but not bad for a rookie from a spread offense in only his fourth pro game.

The final moment? The post-game moment that has drawn its fair share of press attention. Folks may want to seize on this as a sign that his immaturity is coming out. Speaking as someone who played sports from youth on though, I can tell you that this kind of thing happens, and is quickly forgotten.

I’ve seen many teammates jaw at each other far worse than what Newton supposedly said (still not buying that) to Greg Olsen. Said teammates were back lining up next to each other during the following practice. They say winning cures all ills, but the truth is that practicing together toward a common goal cures a good number of them as well.

I'll probably get kidded for sounding like a bit of a homer in this analysis, but make no mistake, the grouchy old man still lives here and he'll be back soon enough (maybe even next week) :D

RUNNINGBACKS

The re-emergence of DeAngelo Williams? I’d feel more comfortable saying that if Williams had been effective for the entire sixty minutes rather than growing less effective as the game went on. Still, it’s good to see him get back up there a little. Stewart is still Stewart of course, and still better suited to “be his own blocker” than Williams, but don’t write DeAngelo off just yet.

My buddy pointed out that in years past, it hasn’t been unusual to see our run game not really hit its stride until a few weeks in. If he’s right about that, then expect things to get better as we move toward mid-season. Naturally, as that improves, the Red Zone efficiency will too.

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

Time for a few awards…

The Academy Award for Best Actor goes to…Charles Tillman for his dramatic performance in “Oh my gosh, he pushed me!” Best Supporting Actor goes to the ref who bought it, and Best Performance by an Unwilling Participant goes to Jeremy Shockey. I’ve heard Shockey’s acceptance speech for this one ran a little long and got a bit testy, so the band tried to play him off but he wouldn’t stop (and I don’t blame him).

The Razzy Award goes to...Legedu Naanee for his performance in “Why isn’t this working?” Critics who analyzed his performance still point to his lack of body control, especially on jumps. One of the main reasons you have a big receiver is so you can throw high passes that he can just go above everyone and pull down. If he can’t do that, then all the size in the world makes no difference at all.

The People’s Choice Award for “Whom Shall We Cover in the Red Zone” goes - in a narrow vote - to Greg Olsen over Steve Smith. For differing reasons, it was clear the Bears really didn’t want to see either of those two score. Me, I was hoping for Olsen to score the first touchdown. Instead, he had to settle for the final one, and that in garbage time. I have a feeling this isn’t the last go-round though, and next time I’ll be hoping for a different outcome.

Despite losing out on the prior trophy though, Steve Smith does win The Comeback Award for his performance in “The Crossing Route’. This particular performance was huge in 2003, but in the years that followed seemed to inexplicably fade away. Now with a new director at the helm, this show has returned to the spotlight where it belongs. Older fans are thrilled to see it again, and younger fans are learning just how good it can be.

And finally, the Emmy Award for his performance in “Hey Coach, can I come out of the doghouse yet?” goes to...Brandon LaFell. While viewer ratings for this show have overall been high, it still seems to be weak in the demographic of Panther Coaches. Those working behind the scenes – primarily LaFell, Fred Graves and Ricky Proehl – seem to be doing all they can to pick up on that front. Still, this show only won be a narrow vote over “Oh how we miss you” starring David Gettis.

We'd like to thank you for attending these awards. For the post party, we're headed over to the other side of the ball.

(continued)

#2 Mr. Scot

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:14 PM

DEFENSE

Now moving over to the defense, or rather the people to whom nobody really wants to give an award for last week’s performance.

FRONT SEVEN

One of my complaints about the interstates around Charlotte is that in many places, they simply don’t have enough lanes to handle the busiest traffic times. Such a complaint apparently can’t be made of Chicago, because based on what I saw this past weekend they have lanes to spare.

Scheme adjustments have made up for prior issues early on against the run, and they did here too, for a while. Eventually though, the continual pounding wore down and big BIG holes were opening up on a regular basis. That last run by Forte absolutely killed us, and then giving up a short TD to Barber? Ugh.

Both sides of the line seem to be stronger in the pass game than in the run. And again, the ends proved stronger than the guys in the middle, harassing Jay Cutler more than once (even with the relatively small number of pass attempts). I know there’s some discussion about Ron Fields doing well in the middle, and he legitimately is in late game substitutions. There’s some call for him to be a starter though, and I’m not so sure that’s warranted yet.

The question that has to be answered before you can go that route is what kind of game shape he’s in. Is he in good enough shape to be that good for a whole game or is he better as a “reliever” down the stretch. For the moment, the coaching staff seems to believe it’s the latter. That may change. We’ll see.

As far as the linebackers, while I continue to have all the respect in the world for Dan Connor and James Anderson, I found myself at several points in this game saying "Jon Beason makes that play" or "Thomas Davis would have stopped that from happening" or something of the like. I will defend Connor on that penalty he got on the screen though. I didn’t see any hold. Jason Williams? Hoping to see some improvement there, because as it is right now I’d just as soon see the Panthers trade for Aaron Curry and see what he can do.

SECONDARY

Not as much to judge by given that there were only 17 pass plays. Some good stuff from Darius Butler, including a really nice form tackle on a runningback. After that play, I told my buddy that New England let him go because they thought he was a poor tackler. Looked pretty good to us.

Wish Charles Godfrey had looked a little better tackling on a few of those plays. Godfrey whiffed pretty badly on one of those long runs by Forte. Yes, he had a pretty good tackle later, but I still watch him every week and think he’d be much better as a corner than a safety.

Captain Munnerlyn? I know everyone wants to cheer for him, and I do too. Still, my ultimate conviction is that he just isn’t a starting corner. A nickel? That I can see. Lord knows he has absolutely no fear of tackling, regardless of what size the opponent is. If that were all he were required to do as a starting corner, I’d be okay with him. Sadly, it isn’t.

When Gamble is healthy again (and hopefully stays that way) I want to see he and Butler starting.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Last week I called them ‘Average Teams” because there wasn’t much that was especially good or bad about their performance.

Wish I could still call them “Average” this week. Sadly, “Below Average” would be way more appropriate :(

The return game still isn’t really showing much of anything. Blocking absolutely plays a role, but so far neither Armanti Edwards nor Mike Goodson has done anything to give opposing ST coaches any worries. Goodson in particular seems to have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff, benched late in favor of Jordan Pugh.

Rivera said the move to Pugh was due to a mishandled kick, as well as their just “looking for a spark”. I won’t be surprised if “The Search for Spark” is playing in theaters again this Sunday. Might lead the team to take another look at Donnie Avery, or maybe even Kealoha Pilares (assuming he’s healthy).

Coverage? Ugh. I’m betting Ron Rivera had some flashbacks of last year in San Diego watching those returns. I’ll address the coaching issues on this end in the next section, but the coverage was obviously terrible. Those times when they did get close to the returner, the tackling was awful, borderline comical. Cannot have that continue and expect anything good to happen.

Brian Murphy has his work cut out for him fixing those issues.

COACHING

On the coordinator fronts, this is one where again, on the defensive side at least, I blame execution more than I do playcalling and game planning. My only wonder was whether the defensive gameplan was geared to stop the pass rather than the run based on the way the bears have played in the season thus far. If so, then I’m guessing they ignored the noise coming out of Chicago saying that they planned to run more. That’s a pretty bad mistake, if that’s what happened.

On the offensive side, still a good game called by Chudzinski. As before, he went to the safe medium outside throws first after Newton had a bad play (the pick). My worry is that he might be getting a tad predictable. More than once, I called what was coming before the play was run. And if I can do it, you know opposing DCs can do it. He was also guilty of “going to the well once too often” calling a late screen to Stewart that the Bears easily sniffed out. Overall good, but defenses have gotten some film on him now and he’ll need to do some proactive adjustments to stay ahead of the game.

Special teams? Well, I think you have to merge that discussion with the discussion of the Head Coach.

The question has been asked a hundred times this week? Why kick to Devin Hester?

The answer is something I’ll cover more in a separate thread, but at heart it comes down to coaching philosophy. You draw up a scheme and expect the players to execute that scheme. When they do, you look like a genius. When they don’t, you look like an idiot. Is Rivera an idiot? No, but I do think he might have shown a bit of stubbornness in this game.

After that first kick to Hester was a disaster, he should have chosen to go away from doing that. He didn’t, and as a result, more of the same. The good news? Rivera is still a rookie too, and there are things he’ll have to learn this year as much as anyone else. Unlike John Fox though, I do think he’s a more teachable type of guy, and will learn from his mistakes and get better.

Still a lot of work to do on the discipline front as well (too many mental errors, way too many penalties) but hopefully that gets corrected over time. Would add also that the clock management late and in the two minute drills was awful, reminiscent of the Eagles Super Bowl game. Odd considering they ran a near perfect two-minute drill in a prior game.

SUMMARY

All in all, this one hurt. Like I said at the beginning, losing sucks.

With that said though, the posts calling for the heads of whomever each person holds responsible got a little silly. I know fans got a taste of what it was like to win again last week, and they want more. Still, I’m in the camp that says I don’t care what the win-loss record is this season as long as it looks like this team has a bright future.

Said it before, and will say it again. I am less worried about this team’s future now than I have been in years.

Are there still issues? Yep, but these things take time. I think with another offseason of roster changes, more reps for Newton and more time for everyone in the respective systems, this team could scare a lot of people down the road.

In the meantime, let’s sit back and enjoy the ride :D

Edited by Mr Scot, 04 October 2011 - 12:26 PM.


#3 pantherj

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:45 PM

It's been a long time since we've had a defense that made me cringe over a dozen times a game. I can hardly watch. I guess the good news is that Rivera knows exactly who to blame for these losses, and heads will roll at the end of the season.

#4 Mr. Scot

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:49 PM

I won't be terribly surprised if some heads roll sooner than that.

Unfortunately, with the injuries we have, we're a little short on heads :(

#5 bleys

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:58 PM

as your friend correctly pointed out, our run game has never hit full stride until LATE into the season.


week 6 or 7? keep going.. 8 or 9? more so than prior weeks.. 10 or 11, now we're talkin...

#6 blackcatgrowl

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:59 PM

As usual, good write up Mr. Scot, and dead on. Your assessment on Rivera with regard to kicking to Hester is very on point.

The defense definitely took a big step back. They did a good job on the Jags. This outing was pathetic. I hope Rivera rips them a new ass on the practice field tomorrow.

#7 SOJA

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:04 PM

a big win this weekend would be huge against the best team in our division......as always great write up Mr. Scot

#8 Mr. Scot

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:09 PM

If Rivera can find a way to nullify Drew Brees the way he did Peyton Manning back in SD, it'll make winning that game a lot more possible.

#9 Lout

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:13 PM

Our run defense is ranked 31st.. our pass defense is ranked #6. I think we matchup well with the Saints.. I think we can slow down Brees. This game is very winnable. We just can't shoot ourselves in the foot.

The Eagles are ranked #11 Pass Defense and #30 Run Defense.

Coincidence? Or Scheme?

#10 Mr. Scot

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:15 PM

Our run defense is ranked 31st.. our pass defense is ranked #6. I think we matchup well with the Saints.. I think we can slow down Brees. This game is very winnable. We just can't shoot ourselves in the foot.

Plaxico doesn't play for us :sosp:

The Eagles are ranked #11 Pass Defense and #30 Run Defense.

Coincidence? Or Scheme?

Offensive Line Coach as Defensive Coordinator.

#11 jramsey4

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:20 PM

plaxico doesn't play for us :sosp:


offensive line coach as defensive coordinator.


lol. Speaking of Plaxico is he still in prison. Wouldn't mind having him as our #2.

#12 Lout

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:20 PM

Plaxico doesn't play for us :sosp:


Offensive Line Coach as Defensive Coordinator.


Lol. I suppose you're right about that. And our problem is obvious to Carolina fans. Rookie DTs and injuries to the LB corps. Unfortunately, I don't think we can change either of those things.

#13 Hairless Cat

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:26 PM

nice write up - one mistake though

And of course there was the weird "did not report' penalty on Travelle Wharton that negated our lone Wildcat play.


not to nit pick but, I would have sworn we played the wildcat 2x against Chicago

#14 Mr. Scot

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:41 PM

lol. Speaking of Plaxico is he still in prison. Wouldn't mind having him as our #2.

He's a Jet.

nice write up - one mistake though

not to nit pick but, I would have sworn we played the wildcat 2x against Chicago

Might have. I took a phone call from my girlfriend mid-game and missed some plays.

#15 thefuzz

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:42 PM

If Rivera can find a way to nullify Drew Brees the way he did Peyton Manning back in SD, it'll make winning that game a lot more possible.


I agree. Peyton's biggest problem is the 3-4. He struggles against the Pats of old, SD, and the Steelers. For some reason he just can't quite figure out the 3-4 as well as he does the 43. That was the big reason for Wade in Houston.

Brees on the other hand makes his living on the 43, hopefully we can keep him contained.


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