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  1. 111 points
    The original Death Star was a Japanese battleship called the Yamato. The year was 1937. Leadership councils in the Japanese Empire foresaw a war with America as their capacity for national self-sufficiency bled away, and they recognized that American shipyards could out-produce them if war were to break out. As a proactive measure, they decided to build the biggest, baddest, fastest, most heavily-armed warship ever created by man. Shrouded in secrecy from keel-laying to commission, the Yamato was nearly a fifth of a mile long, displaced over 70,000 tons fully loaded, and wielded nine 18.1" guns, making it the largest, longest, most heavily-armed naval ship in the history of the universe. It has since been reimagined as a giant-ass U.N. rocket ship for no good reason whatsoever. The Yamato was ready for war a week after the Japanese effectively declared it by bombing Pearl Harbor. She was built for one purpose and one purpose alone: to blast the hell out of columns of American battleships. Much like the previous century's military strategy had been dominated by legions of troops squaring off against one another in unprotected formations in the open field, naval strategies early on in the war were invariably composed of battleship lines: the archaic tactic of big guns slugging it out on the high seas. This approach followed hundreds of years of unassailed naval doctrine; wars were won by opposing surface fleets, and that was that. But then Pearl Harbor happened. Ironically, it was Japan's resounding success in striking the American naval base that ultimately did her in. The U.S. fleet had been so badly damaged that fleet maneuvers mere months later had to be made in the absence of a half-dozen premier battleships. Of course, any grand showdown in the open Pacific with the Imperial Japanese Navy would be suicide with the Arizona, West Virginia, California, and Nevada lying on the harbor floor or beached uselessly against its shores. If something was going to be done about the advancing Japanese, it was going to have to be done through unorthodox means. Like, say, the aircraft carrier. Numerical designator 10 signifies the number of people that thought these goddamn things would actually work. Prior to 1942, aircraft carriers were transports as much as anything, useful for stationing offshore as a strike platform on a place too distant for land-based attacks. It had never been considered as a tool of true naval warfare. Necessity is never more the mother of invention than in war, however, and circumstances thrust it into action in a new role. And suddenly, miraculously, the U.S. Navy found itself at the winning end of a watershed moment in the history of warfare: during the Battle of the Coral Sea, carrier-based bomber strikes successfully repelled a massive Japanese fleet, even sinking a Japanese carrier. Echoing through eternity is commander Robert Dixon's famous words: "Scratch one flat-top!" radioed to his squadron as the Shōhō went under. He had just unknowingly immortalized the ushering in of warfare's modern era. At that moment the complexion of the war changed. Three months later a fleet of American aircraft carriers launched long-range attacks against a Japanese force invading Midway Island. They sent four Japanese carriers plunging to the bottom with several waves of dive-bomber and torpedo-bomber attacks, repelling the invasion fleet a thousand miles from its objective. And the Yamato, class of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the baddest ship on the high seas, had been instantly rendered irrelevant. Her massive guns had been rendered obsolete in the unlikeliest of ways. She had gone from golden goose to sitting duck in the space of months. Kind of like the Atlanta Falcons! The year was 2008. Leadership councils in Atlanta foresaw an opportunity in the NFC South. With an aging roster, the Carolina Panthers' window was closing fast. The Buccaneers were coasting on the waning success of Jon Gruden and a no-name quarterback in a league evolving to leave them behind, and the New Orleans Saints, for all their offensive prowess, were a perennial disaster on the other side of the ball. As a proactive measure, the Falcons decided to draft a quarterback and assemble an offensive roster that would give him downfield weapons and a stalwart offensive line to build around. The result was 3rd overall pick Matt Ryan. Matt Ryan was quickly tabbed as a future NFL star (you could see it the moment he splashed that big advertisement deal with AirTran.) The first play of his career was a 67-yard bomb to Michael Jenkins for a touchdown. He put together a stellar rookie campaign and led his team to the playoffs with a rookie head coach (the first time a rookie head coach/quarterback combination accomplished such a feat since the Cleveland Rams did it in 1945.) Matt Ryan was the Yamato of the NFC South. The clear future, the meteoric talent, the juggernaut. He would dominate, he would bring victory. Like Pearl Harbor, the lockout torpedoed the Carolina Panthers and sent them crashing to the bottom; it was even an inside job, as many have accused Pearl Harbor of being, most notably outlined in the ironically-named Clausen Inquiry. And the Panthers, wounded, stripped of their talent, had to find some new way to win. If something was going to be done about the advancing Falcons, it was going to have to be done through unorthodox means. Like, say, drafting Cam Newton. Before 2011, quarterbacks didn't get to run and call themselves good quarterbacks at the same time. "Mobile quarterback" was a trope for "black and can't throw." The positional archetype was a Matt Ryan: tall, sturdy, committed to standing stalwart in the pocket and making efficient downfield throws, relying on hard work and familiarity with Xs and Os rather than premier athletic talent. But circumstances thrust a widely-criticized, mold-breaking, rough-edged quarterback who could attack defenses in ways never before encountered into a starting role with the Panthers; and, just as the jut of the Shōhō's bow from the frothing sea as she went under changed the landscape of naval warfare forever, Cam Newton's touchdown pass deep down the left sideline to Steve Smith announced to the world that a new force had arrived to the NFC South, a new power to be reckoned with. Nearly five full seasons from the moment of that first touchdown pass, the revolution of the Carolina Panthers is nearly complete. Cam Newton is the runaway MVP favorite. He'll cement it this week by taking on the Falcons. He'll do it, ironically, in an air raid. He'll do it against the Yamato of the NFC South, the new quarterback of the new team that was supposed to dominate and control it. In 1945 the Yamato met her end ignominiously, loaded with troops, like any common transport ship, and given orders for a suicide mission: to beach on Okinawa and use her massive guns in support of the defense until depleted or destroyed. Poetically, she was spotted by reconnaissance planes flown from aircraft carriers, bombed and torpedoed for two hours. Finally she capsized, blew up spectacularly, split in half, and, symbolic in more ways than one of the flagging Japanese war effort, sank to the bottom of the ocean forever. On Sunday the Falcons embrace their suicide mission. On Sunday they meet the force they inadvertently created. On Sunday they explode spectacularly, split in half, and plunge to the bottom of the NFC South. The Panthers advance to 15-0. Merry Christmas everyone! View full article
  2. 107 points
    Bitch ass move locking my thread just so you could post one Igo. Bitch ass move.
  3. 103 points
    "Swiss Army Knife" is the most overused cliche in the NFL. It's a trope that's somehow more annoying than the word "moxie" and the use of the word "sky" as a verb. It's an evocative term, though, meant to denote a player who fits multiple modes of play and can be flexed into various positions (our own Joe Webb is an example, as backup quarterback, special teams coverage guy, wide receiver, and kick returner.) Another example is Kurt Coleman. Over the summer I highlighted trending changes in personnel archetypes at the nickel back position, noting that the rise of plesiosaur-sized football players in the slot receiver position (e.g. Gronkowski) has demanded larger, more physical players at nickel. Many teams have responded by looking for more athletic safeties, guys who can either be flexed onto the field as third safeties (the "Buffalo Nickel") or to match up against larger, more athletic players in man coverage with regular two-safety packages. Dave Gettleman recognized this in the offseason and, trying to improve a pass defense ranked outside the top ten, brought in Coleman, a 6th-year veteran who played with Philadelphia but lost his job with the departure of Andy Reid (new defensive coordinator Bill Davis declined to resign him when retooling the 3-4 scheme.) At Carolina he quickly beat out Tre Boston for the starting job at free safety, proving significantly better in pass coverage. A free safety who's lethal in run defense is a huge advantage for defensive backfields, and that's precisely why he's so valuable. Coleman's versatility gives McDermott the ability to play him in multiple roles. This makes him instrumental in disguising coverages. A prime example is the first quarter play against the Buccaneers last week that ended in a Josh Norman interception return for a touchdown. Here Tampa Bay lines up with a 3WR 1TE set. The Panthers are in the nickel defense. Kurt Coleman is the free safety, highlighted near the bottom of the field. As Jameis Winston makes his pre-snap reads, Kurt Coleman moves down close to the line of scrimmage: When the free safety drops into the box - usually that's an assignment for the strong safety, in run support - it's often an indication that the defense is in man coverage. Coleman's presence near the linebackers indicates his assignment is the running back, leaving Tillman on an island against Mike Evans. This could mean either Klein or Davis are blitzing or spying, or Klein's man is Louis Murphy, lined up directly across from the right guard. Let's look at the play call: As you can see above, Mike Evans - at the bottom of your screen - is running a slant. At the top of your screen Vincent Jackson is running an inside hitch, TE Brandon Myers an out route, and Louis Murphy is running up the seam on a deep post. This play design looks like it will be get several guys open if this is man coverage, since Murphy is a speedster and can easily run past Harper even if Davis is bracketing him. But notice how Coleman backpedals right before the snap. He's dropping into coverage. He may be staying inside that slant. Possibly recognizing this, Jameis Winston never even looks his way. Look at the right side of the field, where Winston immediately turns: If this is man coverage - and Winston probably thinks it is - then Jackson takes Norman out of the play, and Murphy takes Klein out of the play. This leaves Brandon Myers with inside leverage on the nickel, Benwikere. Myers will run into a zone cleared out by the receivers. With an easy first down in mind, Winston targets Myers. BUT WAIT! THEY'RE IN ZONE! Kurt Coleman was just pretending to cover the back! Brandon Myers is in Josh Norman's zone! Josh Norman sees him! We all know how this ends. There you have it. A critical turnover and scoring play against a division rival, made possible largely by Kurt Coleman's versatility as a safety. His ability to handle the responsibilities of a strong safety while actually playing free safety has allowed McDermott to move him around the field and confuse young players like Jameis Winston. Incidentally his presence given a marginal pass rush more time to get to the quarterback and helped keep offenses from isolating Roman Harper on plays. As the resident Swiss Army Knife, Kurt Coleman is a substantial piece of the puzzle, and one of the reasons the Carolina Panthers are 4-0. A final note on defense. Good safety play is always better safety play when you've got a pass rush. A good pass rush is always a better pass rush when you have a actual animals on your defensive line. Can you tell the difference between these hungry lions and newcomer Ryan Delaire? I sure can't. In a week and a half the Seahawks get to find out in person. View full article
  4. 95 points
    As I sat this morning sipping my delicious Dunkin Donuts coffee, the best coffee on earth, I noticed many on the Huddle were upset over the corners drafted. You know, the ones that were not mock draft projected until later rounds. My answer is simply... who cares? Dave Gettleman, the best talent evaluator in the NFL, pinpoints with laser sharp accuracy the players he wants the most, and he goes out and gets them. As long as Gettleman gets the players he covets the most, I honestly have no interest in what rounds they came in, and neither should you. Earlier this week, the least talented position on the entire roster was corner back. Last year, the Panthers literally went out and picked up guys off of their couches and still made it to the Superbowl. So guess what, Gettleman went out and got the three best corners. No, not the three best on walterfootballdotcom or other draftnik websites. The three best corners for the PANTHERS SYSTEM. In this year's NFL draft you had 3 elite corners, all taken by pick 11. All of the rest are as much a roll of the dice as the next. Unless, of course, you have a proven system in place and the talented coaching staff to implement it. Then you target specific physical characteristics and abilities and mold them in to what you want. Which is EXACTLY what the Panthers just did. Do not take that for granted, not all teams have that ability. The Panthers went out and found two large zone corners and a ball hawking nickel. Job done. In short, if you are upset that the players Gettleman drafted were not rated higher on silly draft websites, take issue with those websites. Do not take issue with the guy that is the gold standard for NFL talent evaluation... Dave Gettleman. Let Go, and Let Gett View full article
  5. 94 points
    On this day, at precisely 2pm EST on 7/15/15, I buried the card pictured below on the grounds of the new sphincter shaped stadium of the Atlanta Falcons. Let it be known that from this day forward, the new stadium is property of the members of the RoaringRiot, Panther Nation and will be the second home of our Carolina Panthers. Suck it Falcons.
  6. 88 points
    "C'mon, you'll make plenty of friends!" said Mrs. LaRusso, her motherly smile an attempt at reassurance as the decrepit 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu wagon (a model now driven exclusively by Redskins fans) fired up and shuddered up the street, away from the familiar comforts of the east coast, bound for the faraway west. Daniel LaRusso didn't make friends. Daniel LaRusso showed up to his first-ever West Coast party a few days later and made the simultaneous mistake of talking to the hottest girl on the beach and weighing ninety pounds. Her ex-boyfriend, Johnny Lawrence, showed up with his pals and proceeded to beat the living hell out of Daniel, who ended the first confrontation gagging up the bile from his burst spleen into the sand while the object of his affection watched with a mixture of pity and disgust. He needs to learn to defend himself, everyone thought. Maybe learn karate. Because this is pathetic. It's the same reaction we had in 2012 when Cam Newton dumped a game-winning touchdown pass at Ben Hartsock's feet and ended the game. Hopefully next time Louis Murphy or Joe Adams would make a play to bail him out. That's right, Panthers fans. Remember that? No one wants to remember that horrible travesty of a game, but they need to, because it's the first of a long series of modern-era confrontations between the Seahawks and the Panthers. Just like Johnny Lawrence always happened to run into Daniel at the most inconvenient of times, so to have the Panthers found themselves constantly running into the Seahawks. And just like Johnny always beat the bleeding piss out of Daniel - on a soccer field, down an embankment on a bike, in the aftermath of a Halloween prank where Daniel nearly got the best of him - so too have the Seahawks historically beat the piss out of the Panthers. 2012: loss. Cam inaccurate, threw for career low, missed game-winning touchdown. 2013: loss. Close game, DeAngelo Williams coughed up the ball on the game-winning drive late in the fourth. 2014: loss. Wilson threw a touchdown to Wilson with :47 left on the clock for a 13-7 win. 2014 (playoffs): loss. Cam threw a game-losing pick-six during a game-tying drive. "GOD we need a left tackle." What a disaster! Black eyes, scraped foreheads, broken spirits. Having to dodge the asshole around your girl, who looks at you with sweet sympathy instead of alluring pride. Daniel LaRusso didn't get to play grabass with Elisabeth Shue and the Panthers stormed home every time, ashamed, throwing their battered bicycle into the garbage can and screaming at their mom to take them back to the east coast. But then something miraculous happened. Ron Rivera taught them all karate. That's right, Ron Rivera trained them. He took those scrawny sons of bitches, strapped Japanese sandpaper clogs onto their hands, and made them do hard and dirty work all summer long. Ron was instilling a culture, and this was the final act. He was training them to beat the bullies, to finally persevere, and he was training them to do it on one of the biggest national stages the team had ever seen. Now let's look at the Daniel-san's journey for a second. The moral of the story - and indeed, the entire philosophical underpinning of his training - is that kicking someone's ass is secondary to the purpose of learning martial arts. Karate is a physical extension of something mental and spiritual. It's a discipline, a way of life. You learn karate so you don't have to fight. Karate is a way. This, ultimately, is the lesson Daniel-san learns from his training. And halfway through the saga he's already defeated Johnny and the Cobra Kai assclowns: he has not bested them in competition, but he's transcended them. He exists on a higher plane than they. He has beat them, both mentally and spiritually, and because he knows he can beat them physically, the fight is irrelevant. Right? Much like the Panthers beat the Seahawks earlier in the season, Daniel-san had already won. It was over. And when that tournament came, the one where he was supposed to prove to Mr. Miyagi, the Cobra Kai dojo, Elisabeth Shue, and Johnny Lawrence that he could beat that ass, it was really only just icing on the cake, philosophically speaking. Mr. Miyagi knew this. "Daniel-san already win," he reassured the boy. But they all knew, deep down, that it wasn't enough. It wasn't enough to best Johnny mentally and spiritually. It wasn't enough that the Cobra Kai practitioners would walk away from the tournament with an immense amount of respect for trying so hard and getting that far. It wasn't enough that sometime in the future they'd probably stop picking on him because of that respect. No, that wasn't enough, and Daniel-san knew it. Daniel-san was gonna have to crane-style somebody's ass to end this. On Sunday the Panthers take on the Seattle Seahawks. They've already won; they beat the Seahawks in October, finally proving to themselves that they've got the mettle and the resolve to take on a foe who's been bullying them for years. But the Panthers don't want internal gratification alone. They don't want manifested philosophy and the fulfillment of inner harmony. No, they want that fucking trophy. And they're gonna have to smash some fucking skulls to do it. We all know how this ends. Daniel beats off all his competition, including Steve McQueen's son and the kid who looks like Mark Hamill, and before you can scream "PUT HIM IN A BODYBAG JOHNNY!!!!!" he's in a crane stance, mimicking the opening move of the Okinawan Isshin-ryu kata Hakutsuru, and throws a fatal jumping front snap kick into Johnny's oncoming perfect Hollywood jaw. Johnny grovels and inexplicably pushes his own face vacuum cleaner style across the ring in complete disgrace while Daniel-san, met by the approving roar of the crowds, hoists the trophy, evokes a single tear from Mr. Miyagi's left eye, and invariably gets some ass that night, champion of the All Valley Karate Tournament. Panthers win 28-19. God bless you all. View full article
  7. 88 points
    Here's an anecdotal history lesson. During World War Two submarine operations became a critical part of the U.S. Navy's operations in the Pacific Theater. When I was eleven I read a book written by the captain of the USS Barb, a guy named Eugene Fluckey who had bigger balls than anyone in the United States Navy or even modern human history. This guy revolutionized submarine warfare from a tactical aspect, inventing several effective convoy approaches, and managed to do it while pulling off several Mission Impossible level escapades, including landing an impromptu team of engineers onto the Japanese mainland and blowing up a train. On the Japanese mainland. And that's not even his most notorious feat. This is: one night the Barb and her plucky crew crept into a heavily-armed, high-security Japanese controlled harbor on the Chinese coast and discovered it was chock full of anchored ships. Sitting ducks, all of them. To get in firing position they crept 26 miles inside the 20-fathom curve of the Chinese coast, which is an incredibly dangerous thing to do (they could've run aground, hit a mine, or been spotted) and proceeded to unleash fury on the anchored convoys. Fluckey emptied one torpedo tube after another, launching spreads of six, shifting a few degrees, firing again, and laying down the most awesome display of underwater firepower in the history of the world. It was a target-rich environment and all nine levels of hell emptied bowels of fire into that Chinese bay. Ammunition freighters blew up in technicolor mushroom clouds, troop ships split in half, searchlights split the sky, furious destroyers began depth-charging fish and whales and rocks and anything that looked like a shadow, and meanwhile Fluckey literally scraped along the bottom of the sound and kept firing. Target after target, completely unprotected, vanished in a column white water and a muffled boom. And then they set a world record for submarine escape speed at the time, surfacing and racing off into the night. All told Fluckey and the Barb destroyed 30 ships, an incredible feat for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. I relate this tale because the utter chaos and explosive mayhem in that target-rich harbor was the first thing I thought of when I watched game film of the New Orleans Saints. No, really, the Saints are horrible. They're 0-2, but they're actually somehow worse than their record indicates. They may actually be the worst team in the league. In fact, I am confident that if Mike Shula can exploit some of the glaring weaknesses in Rob Ryan's defense we could see a four-quarter, 40+ point drubbing up and down the field in our most dominant performance since ...well, since the last time we played the Saints. Here's a few reasons why. 1) No one on the Saints defense knows their assignments. Sean Payton isn't getting in yelling matches with Rob Ryan for no reason. That defense is completely unprepared and has been for two weeks in a row. It's a combination of talent and scheme and it's allowing teams to do whatever they want. Check out the third play from scrimmage against the Arizona Cardinals in week one. The Cardinals are running a 4WR set against what looks to be the Saints nickel defense. What happens? Do you see what I see here? Everyone's open. Everyone. The ball is already out at this point, so the coverage isn't quite as bad as it looks, but the corners played off and both outside hitches and curls were open, Fitzgerald was wide open on the fade, and of course the slot receiver (near the 50-yard line) was wide open between the linebackers and safeties, all of whom completely froze. The result was an 18-yard gain en route to an opening-drive touchdown. This is just one play but it happened all day in this game. 2) The Saints' starting safeties are subpar. In this case, "subpar" is a euphemism for "worse diagnostic skills than a potted plant." They're thin at the position with Byrd down and offensive coordinators have found ways to isolate their backups over and over again. It's always a good matchup for the offense. I don't know why they're letting Jamarca Sanford see the field at strong safety, but between him and Kenny Phillips at free safety it's a lunch buffet for quarterbacks. They play deep, way deep, so scared to leave underperforming cornerbacks alone on deep routes that they constantly allow completions underneath. Take a look at this second-quarter play on third down: In the above frame the Cardinals empty the backfield. This play is designed to get Larry Fitzgerald the ball - the receivers run a clear-out pattern against the defense, keeping backs deep and leaving Fitzgerald in a zone by himself. Watch what happens: Once again it seems like everyone's wide open. Credit great scheming by Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin to get guys in zone holes, bound to be there since nobody on the Saints defense can cover man-to-man. And, of course, credit poor safety play (the strong safety has his man, but the free safety is in cover zero right now) and atrocious linebacking play. First down, Cardinals (they scored on this drive too.) 3) The Saints may have the worst linebacking corps in the NFL. Picture Mel Gibson's friend beating the primae noctis knight with a mace and that's what happens to middle linebacker Stephone Anthony every single snap (see: awful coverage in the above frames.) OLB David Hawthorne is serviceable but not much better than that. In fairness to them they're playing behind a declawed pass rush and in front of terrible safeties, so they've got a lot on their shoulders, but check out this running play in the third quarter. Nothing spectacular here, just a standard single-back set, running to the left between the guard and tackle. The right guard pulls to help out in blocking. Look what happens: This snapshot is taken right as the running back (Chris Johnson) reaches the line of scrimmage. The left guard and left tackle do a great job of controlling the point of attack, but the linebackers should be cleaning this up. Instead rookie OLB Hau'oli Kikaha gets blown up while the MLB gets sucked in and completely misses the gap. Brandon Browner (who has looked absolutely awful so far himself) gets easily blocked out of the play, allowing Chris Johnson a 12-yeard pickup for a first down. 4) Without pro-bowl left guard Jahri Evans, the Saints offensive line consists of Max Unger and four clones of Byron Bell. The right side of that line is playing like the 2006 Oakland Raiders. The Saints have moved Tim Lelito to right guard in Evans's absence, and together with right tackle Zach Strief allowed the Buccaneers two sack/fumbles in addition to countless pressures and hits. I grabbed this snapshot of the second sack/fumble exactly one second after the ball was snapped: This should look familiar to Panthers fans, as it could've been our team at this point last season. As we all know, the Saints went on to lose this game. Thank God for Michael Oher and Dave Gettleman. Okay, let's sum all this up. Through two games we've established that there's a target rich environment on the field for offenses and defenses playing the New Orleans Saints. The Carolina Panthers are the USS Barb, sneaking into a harbor full of sluggish, impaired enemies and manning the torpedo tubes. Here are two key things they can do to drub the Saints for four quarters on Sunday: 1) Inform Charles Johnson to utilize the speed rush. Forget the bull rush and inside spin, just haul around the outside corner. Streif couldn't handle it all game, and the return of Star Lotulelei will leave Streif by himself most of the time. Big Money will get his. 2) Run this play until they figure out how to stop it. The above play takes advantage of two Saints weaknesses: OLB/Nickel, and safety. In this scheme Funchess is the Z at the top of the screen, Philly Brown is the X at the bottom, and Kevin Norwood is the Y, in the slot. When the Panthers interviewed Norwood they wanted him to run the spear route, which, incidentally, works beautifully with Philly Brown's skillset. Here the quarterback reads the right side of the field. If the linebacker (or nickel) drops back to cushion Philly Brown's curl (X) then Cam hits Norwood (Y) underneath. If the linebacker (or nickel) drops down to cover the spear, then Cam hits X on the curl. The tight end splits both terrible safeties, demanding their attention and ensuring either the X or the Y will have advantageous matchups; if the safeties move down they're leaving Olsen unbracketed and Funchess streaking upfield on a deep curl against a single man. Periscope up, boys and girls, we're scoring forty points. Bank it. View full article
  8. 85 points
    Cam could drop his pants and squeeze out a dook on the Titans trident and I would love him more from it after what I saw today.
  9. 85 points
    He would fit in on the huddle that is for sure
  10. 83 points
    One of the unique features of humans is that we have the ability to tell stories about ourselves. And we've done just that, since the dawn of time. Some scholars argue that stories began in conjunction with the invention of controlled fire, others that it came about with the arrival of language structure and the ability to self-reflect. Whatever the origin, we've been spinning yarns for as long as anyone can remember. Faded cave paintings in Europe and the existence of millennia-old oral tales bear testament to this fact. Gilgamesh, Sisyphus, Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Karate Kid, Finding Nemo - all of them are human stories about meaning. And all of them are the same. So argued Joseph Campbell, a profoundly influential 20th century writer who penned the now-famous work The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In it, he compares hundreds of myths (stories, legends, tales, epics, dramas, folklore) from across all times and places and argues (very convincingly) that those stories have an internal structure that is more or less the same across the board. Every story has its hero, and every hero follows the same basic pattern, encounters the same basic trials, receives the same basic help, faces the same basic obstacles, completes the same basic end. Joseph Campbell calls it The Hero's Journey. Troll 2 was cited as a notable exception. The Hero's Journey is composed of 17 stages. The stages are variable in order, but the hero - whether it's Luke Skywalker or Marty McFly or Frodo Baggins - always begins in an ordinary world, in which he receives an initiation. It's a call to adventure: Luke was smitten with the lore of the Jedi when he met old Ben Kenobi, Marty rushed to the scene of Doc Brown's time experiment and was interrupted by Libyan terrorists, and Frodo bounded joyfully out of the Shire, shouting it to anyone who would listen. I'm going on an adventure! Out of the ordinary world our heroes inevitably journey, their departure leading them into the world of the extraordinary, the other, a place of trial and temptation and initiation. They fight and they fall and they grow and they triumph, and every hero's journey ends in a return, a heart-swelling finish: Jesus to the Heavens, Nemo to the reef, Simba to the pride. And, goddammit, the Super Bowl Champion Carolina Panthers to Charlotte, North Carolina. That's right, the Carolina Panthers are our hero, and they're on a journey that follows the same structure seen in timeless epics the world over. Take a look at Campbell's mythic structure, broken down into 17 different stages: Sweet hot damn, if this isn't a a mirror of the journey of the 2015 Carolina Panthers I don't know what is. Let's break it down, step by step. 1) Call to Adventure! It's Week one, and the Panthers take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. It's the beginning of the season, where everyone's undefeated. Much maligned all preseason as marginal at best, Carolina grabs a hard-fought victory and advances to 1-0. The journey has begun. 2) Refusal of the Call. Every hero faces trepidation, the terror of the unknown and the possibility of failure. With Luke Keuchly lost the week before, a sense of inadequacy filled the hearts of our heroes, a weakening of confidence as the JJ Watt-led Texans marched into town. But the refusal in the head is always overcome by a stirring in the heart, and the Panthers stepped up and produced a win. 3) The Magic Helper. When the hero commits fully to the journey, his aid becomes known. It's usually magic, and it usually comes from an unexpected place. For Luke Skywalker it was Ben Kenobi and the Force. For the Panthers it was ...Mike Shula? Suddenly the Panthers were making good use of personnel, scheming around talent deficiencies, and scoring points, with Shula pulling the strings behind the scenes. The Saints went down hard. 4) Crossing First Threshold. Here the hero enters into the realm of the unknown for the first time. And the Panthers, utterly destroying the Buccaneers for four quarters, found themselves stepping onto the path of a 4-0 undefeated team. Suddenly people were using words like "elite" (if only skeptically) to describe them, and our heroes found themselves on the cusp of true initiation. The Bucs were one thing, but the Seahawks were quite another. 5) Belly of the Whale. The hero lives his world behind for good, finally separated from his old self. When Greg Olsen caught a game-winning touchdown pass against a foe that had sent them seething to the locker room for nearly half a decade, the Panthers entered this stage of the journey. They underwent a metamorphosis that day, and suddenly the world noticed something new about the Carolina Panthers. They were... dangerous. 6) Road of Trials. With the emotion of the Seahawks game passed, our heroes settled in for the long haul. Sixteen games takes a lot of focus. After several weeks of emotional highs and blown-up scoreboards and jaw-dropping highlight plays, the contest against the Philadelphia Eagles brought them down to earth in what was more or less a war of attrition, and probably the most boring game of the season. Cam threw some ugly interceptions. Ted Ginn dropped balls. Greg Olsen was marginal. The Panthers won, but they carried a lot of questions to the locker room. They had problems to fix. 7) Meeting with the Goddess. At this point in the journey, the hero has faced serious hardships and is in need of morale boosters and an infusion of courage. In this case it was none other than Mother Rain. The field was a maelstrom that night, and the second play from scrimmage was an Andrew Luck fumble, and from there the ass-kicking was on. The Colts would come back to force overtime, but the goddess of precipitation had other plans, letting a soaked football slip out of the outstretched arms of TY Hilton and into Luke Keuchly's outstretched arms. A gift from the heavens. Panthers win. 8) Temptation. Oh, here was temptation. The Panthers were 7-0, one of the best teams in the league, and the temptation to buy into their own hype was enormous. But Ron Rivera, man of discipline, father of stalwart focus, would not let them. They shithoused the Packers, embarrassing them in the first half and making several clutch plays in the second to seal off a comeback attempt. With the lackluster Tennessee Titans up next, the temptation was stronger still. 9) Atonement with the Father. But Ron Rivera wouldn't let them. Ron Rivera, the strongest influence in their football lives, here infused them with power through a special encounter. Against the Titans, Cam infamously danced in the end zone after a hard-fought score, bringing the wrath of loser defensive ends and the pearl-clutching mother of the new Antebellum. The team dabbed on 'em, took group photos. They laughed and they rioted and they partied. And Ron Rivera - coach, father, mentor - sanctified it. Our heroes were validated by the man they loved the most. Our heroes were ready for a run. 10) Apostasis. Dying to the self. Rebirth, a new identity. This happened twice in two consecutive weeks. Cam Newton died to his former self, throwing a record five touchdown passes en route to a four-quarter thrashing of the Redskins, the first time in his career he'd done it. And four days later, Luke Keuchly destroyed Tony Romo's fragile confidence, taking one to the house and punching Tony Romo in the face, the first time in his career he'd done either. Clark Kent had become Superman and Steve Rogers had become Captain America. They wouldn't look back. 11) The Ultimate Boon. In the hero's journey, the boon is usually the hero's ultimate goal. No boon but a Lombardi would suffice, but sweeping the hated Saints was arguably the regular season's most valuable plunder. And plunder they did. Superman took them for five touchdowns, leading a clutch last-minute drive for victory and advancing the team to 12-0. 12) Refusal of Return. Heroes often find themselves at a crossroads, a refusal of return, having found bliss and enlightenment in the world they've occupied. But E.T. had to phone home. And the Panthers, now the NFL's last undefeated, found themselves vulnerable, with the entire league aiming to shoot them down. But they suited up and they came home and they trounced the Falcons, 38-0. 13) Magic Flight. The hero has gained something of value in his journey and must bring it home to the people: a victory, or a rescue, a healing potion, the culmination of the journey. In Rescuers Down Under, it was Bernard the Mouse, milquetoast though he was, on Orville the Albatross, a high-stakes gambit to save Cody from McLeach and that lizard thing. In the 2015 Carolina Panthers, it was a high-flying shootout with the New York Giants in the hardest test our heroes had faced all season. Do or die, they were told, and they did. The Giants died. 14) Rescue from Without. Here, on the brink of return, our hero is wounded. Injured, weakened from the fight. The Panthers lost to the Falcons in a dismal end to the greatest winning streak the franchise had ever seen. The needed one last shot of power, one last infusion of confidence to catapult them over the edge. And they got it from none other than Cam Newton, who took them into the Buccaneers without his running game and leading wide receiver and led his team to victory. 15) Crossing the Return Threshold. Our heroes completed the season at 15-1, but the journey wasn't over yet. Our heroes still had a treasure to bring home. To do it they'd have to start by defending their home against the final onslaughts of the enemy. That threshold was Bank of America Stadium, and there they displayed the prowess they'd gained on their journey, brutally dumping 31 first-half points on the Seahawks for the entire world to see. They made a statement, and the city of Charlotte, its heroes at their gates, sang with hope. Victory was at their doorstep. 16) Master of Two Worlds. In the classical hero's myth, the journey up until this point has been a strengthening: the hero, once week and feeble, has, through his trials and tribulations, gained a series of strengths along the way. At this stage of the journey, preparing for his final battle, he must put both of his strengths on display. And the Panthers, having struggled at times defensively all year, at times offensively when needing to close out a game, demolished the media-touted Arizona Cardinals in a victory so staggeringly complete that Ron Rivera had to decline field goals and touchdowns just to save his enemy from allowing 50+ points. The stage has been set for the final component of the hero's journey: 17) The Freedom to Live. Mastery leads to the freedom of fear from death. Our heroes are whole. Our heroes are strong, courageous, mighty, and full of lust for final victory. They are masters of themselves, masters of their fate, masters of destiny. Forward they charge on Sunday, against the Denver Broncos, masters of football, masters of offense, masters of defense, masters of point-scoring and masters of pain. On Sunday the journey ends. On Sunday Charlotte's heroes bring home its boon. 31-20 Panthers View full article
  11. 79 points
    Each week I bring to you the best of what my camera lens finds. This week, the Carolina Panthers defeat the Arizona Cardinals in convincing fashion to move on to the Superbowl. This is the largest "Along the Sidelines" I have posted. Stick with it, there is plenty of photography goodness from beginning to end. Without further ado... Along the Sidelines - NFC Championship Game View full article
  12. 75 points
    In a tale as legendary as time itself, unlikely hero Martin McFly once found himself in 1955, trapped in his own past thirty years before the present. There he found his father, George McFly, pummeled and ridiculed by Biff Tannen, subject to the insults and repeated harassment of a bully able to impose his will every time they met. Marty watched in disgust as his father, a gangly, overgrown, underpowered high school milquetoast, kowtowed to Biff's every offense. It was a dynamic that molded his identity, indeed his very consciousness. Biff's bullying became the essence of who George McFly was. Does this dynamic sound familiar? Biff Tannen is the Seattle Seahawks, and by my estimation that makes the Panthers George McFly. But we've all seen how that one ends, and it's glorious. Faster than you can yell "Hello McFly!" the Panthers did swear, George, goddammit, and they punched Biff square in the face, knocked him out, and took the girl. And thirty years later, back in the present, Marty observed the difference that win made in his father's life, his personality, his outlook, his attitude. It became the single defining moment in his life and spawned greatness. But all did not end well. Just like Seattle isn't the end of the season, so did Marty find that his misadventures were only beginning. Having only just triumphed over his own family's fate, Marty found himself in a new crisis. So it goes with the Panthers. Forget the past, it's time to go back to the future and avenge the poor choices of your children: that is, the 2014 Panthers matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. October 21, 2015 That's the date Marty went to the future. He saw a version of his future that reminded him of his past: his son a criminal, his wife a drunk, his own life in shambles due to a series of terrible choices. And what's more, 78-year-old Biff stole the DeLorean, flew to 1955, gave that version of himself a sports almanac, and set in motion a chain of events leading to an alternate reality, a dystopian 1985 that finds Hill Valley in physical ruin, crossed with barbed wire, bodybags, machine guns, social decay, and the flickering neon lights of excess and immense economic inequality. In other words, they were in Philadelphia. Absolute disaster! Much like Doc and Marty, the Panthers last year found themselves humuliated by the Eagles, sacked nine times and overwhelmed from the opening snap. A starting secondary consisting of Melvin White, Antoine Cason, Charles Godfrey, and Thomas DeCoud couldn't stop Mark Sanchez from lighting up the scoreboard, and an offensive line consisting of Byron Bell, Amini Silatolu, Chris Scott, and Nate Chandler couldn't stop a formidable pass rush from shredding the point of attack. The result was a humiliating 45-21 loss that was a deeper drubbing than it sounds (14 of those Carolina points came in garbage time.) In the trash-strewn alleys of 1985, Doc and Marty knew they needed a plan to reverse the past and make the present right again. Just like they had to devise a plan to return to 1955 and steal Biff's fateful sports almanac, the Panthers need to devise a plan to clip the wings of a Philadelphia team coming off of two straight wins, surging in the NFC East and motivated to prove the doubters wrong. Philadelphia has fixed several early-season hang-ups, maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. Taking them down won't be an easy task, but here's a few keys to making it happen: 1) Take advantage of a soft interior line. This is probably the Eagles' biggest weakness personnel-wise. Guards Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin are playing some of the worst positional football in the league, consistently allowing penetration by defensive tackles on both running and passing downs. More surprisingly, center Jason Kelce is having the worst year of his professional career (perhaps Panthers fans can sympathize, having watched Ryan Kalil's effectiveness plunge when sandwiched between subpar talent.) Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short should both have huge days. 2) Force DeMarco Murray to run laterally. One of the Eagles' biggest problems over the course of the season has been trying to get Murray going south downfield. He hasn't been able to do it, largely because of terrible interior line play, which plays right into the Panthers' strengths. Interior pressure should force Chip Kelly to treat Murray as the scat back he isn't, sending him outside, around the tackles, where rising star Kony Ealy and newcomer Ryan Delaire are good enough to seal the edge and allow a speedy linebacking corps to come up and make plays. 3) Put the ball in Sam Bradford's hands. Prior to this season Bradford was touted as having the best pass-to-turnover ratio in the league. Not so this year. Bradford has looked atrocious, and it's reflected in the Eagles' bottom-scraping average of 8+ yards to go on third down. Third and long has been standard fare for Bradford through six games and this is where Carolina can force him into mistakes. Bradford's problem hasn't been decision-making, it's been accuracy, and it's hard to imagine a defense better suited for making him pay for off-target balls. The Giants' last-ranked pass defense forced three interceptions last week, so expect a feeding frenzy. 4) Play physically against Philadelphia's receivers. None of them are playing good ball right now, and both have proven susceptible to being nullified at the line of scrimmage when pressed. Jordan Matthews has made a few plays but tends to come up short when it counts (see: game-losing bobble against the Falcons in week one) and Aglohor has proved deeply inconsistent, notching only eight receptions and a fumble through six games. (It's worth noting he didn't practice yesterday and may be out for Sunday's matchup, leaving the number two duties to second-year man Josh Huff, a negligible threat.) Riley Cooper is reliable but dislikes minorities. 5) Isolate the Eagles' cornerbacks. This is going to be key on offense for the Panthers. Last year the Eagles defense struggled in coverage, allowing the most yards after catch in the league, and retooled the entire secondary as an answer. Both safeties are playing at a high level, but corner Byron Maxwell is having an awful year, and his counterpart, Nolan Carroll, is only marginal. There are no tricks to exposing Maxwell. Here's a play the Jets ran in week three: Nothing special, just a deep out run by Brandon Marshall. Maxwell is turn inside in coverage, attempting to direct the route inside where he'll have safety help upfield, or simply not get beat over the top, which has been a problem for him. Much like Cary Williams last week, Maxwell often has to play off the line of scrimmage to avoid getting beat. This buffer often leaves openings for quick cuts and big plays. Cue Brandon Marshall: That's as easy as you're going to get in the NFL. Maxwell plays too far back to recover when Marshall pivots outside, and Fitzpatrick connects with him for a nice gain. The Panthers should be able to take advantage of matchups like this all day. One way Mike Shula can isolate poorly-performing corners like Maxwell is heavy use of two TE sets. A play like the following would likely be successful: Nothing special about this play other than that it utilizes a good tight end and a fast wide receiver. At the bottom of the screen the strong safety will probably have to come up to bracket the TE, Olsen, in the flat, leaving single coverage outside against the receiver (a safer bet than your strong-side linebacker alone against Olsen.) On the upper end of your screen the slot receiver (ideally Philly Brown or Ted Ginn Jr.) will force the free safety to give helped to the nickel back over the top, leaving one-on-one coverage outside for the receiver (who runs an outside hitch in this case.) Plays like this will isolate Maxwell and Carroll in space, where they struggle to position themselves properly against opposing receivers. If the Panthers can do these things they should come out with a convincing win - beating Biff, as it were, and restoring things to the way they were meant to be: victors over the Eagles, undefeated. View full article
  13. 74 points
    Aaron Rodgers is dead. ...metaphorically speaking, of course. Prior to last Sunday the best quarterback in the league has been waved around at Panthers fans like bikers aim mace at stray dogs. "Who've y'all played?" has been the common refrain when discussing records - particularly undefeated records - and it's been made clear by everyone who cares to give an opinion that Rodgers and the Packers are the measuring stick for success. Naysayers from Bristol, Connecticut to Greenville, South Carolina predicted losses to the first winning team Carolina has faced since week 10 of the 2014 season (a horrific loss to the Eagles.) The Panthers responded anyway, hanging 37 on their defense despite leaving 17 points on the field (two wide-open touchdowns and a missed field goal) and shut Rodgers down for three full quarters, stymying his furious fourth-quarter rally once and for all with a Thomas Davis interception for a win reminiscent of Jon Beason's game-ending grab against him in 2008. But the Panthers were a hair's breadth away from 7-1 and a deflating loss despite being up 37-14 at one point in the fourth quarter. How could that Carolina defense have been so dominant for so many quarters and then fall apart so spectacularly in such a short amount of time? The answer is simple: Carolina played man coverage and got creative on the defensive line. In other words, they ripped off Wade Phillips's gameplan and executed it to near perfection. Take a look at this play: The Packers offense thrives on isolation routes. They rely on an excellent, heavily-invested-in receiving core to beat man coverage. Aaron Rodgers's diagnostic abilities are the quickest in the league, and Edgar Bennett's route combos are designed to let him quickly scan the field and immediately hit the guy that's beating his man. It's simple, incredibly efficient, and maddening for pass rushers. The above play is a Packers archetype: two receivers running go routes on the outside, two inside receivers running routes into the middle of the field at different levels. But look what happens: No one open, no one open, no one open, sack. This play sums up the first half for the Packers, whose receivers, offensive line, and quarterback were stifled by Sean McDermott's defense from their first snap. One of the reasons the Packers are a perennially elite offense is because they know how to make adjustments. Two plays into the second half they broke this one out of the playbook: Look at the routes at the bottom of your screen. They don't cross, but they're not isolation routes, either; they're designed to slow down the corners (Tillman at the bottom, Benwikere in the slot.) On the outside Davante Adams is running a three-step slant while Cobb, in the slot, runs a wheel route. Watch what happens: Benwikere follows Cobb to the sideline, covering the flat and watching the quarterback's eyes for a hit on that slant. But Cobb simply beats him to the edge of the flat, vacated by Tillman, and when he turns upfield it's too late for Benwikere to catch up. Rodgers throws a perfect ball, hits his receiver in stride, and it's a sorely-needed touchdown for the Packers. In light of this play, Carolina switched to a zone defense for most of the fourth quarter. They consistently saw plays like this one: I don't watch a lot of Packers games, but it's my understanding that Bennett's offense doesn't use bunch formations very often. They do here, part of an attempt to run crossing routes, misdirections, and pick plays to exploit holes in the soft cover three the Panthers were showing for most of that fourth quarter. This particular play wasn't successful, but it's indicative of the type of play-calling the Packers used to get back into the game. Thankfully it didn't matter. Like the ancient Titans to the swords of their children the Packers fell, gods no more, Mount Othrys a desecrated wasteland. Aaron Rodgers bent to Kawaan Short's lashing blows like Uranus to the emasculating sickle of Kronos. New god-kings claimed the heavens - Zeus and Artemis and Poseidon and Hermes, Davis and Keuchly and Norman and Ealy - Olympians in heart and spirit. But vanquishing a titan is no small feat, and the Panthers have plenty more to face, starting Sunday in Tennessee. Atlas may shrug, but Cam and Shula can't: Tennessee is only allowing 217 passing yards per game over the course of the season, third best in the league. They are a dangerous team with Mariota back and a defensive line stacked with pass rushers. They have weaknesses: on Monday new head coach Mike Mularky announced a lineup change in the heretofore atrocious offensive line, shifting guard Byron Bell to right tackle, their right tackle to right guard, and inserting a center somehow named "Looney" into the lineup. Offensive coordinator Jason Michaels runs more staggered, multi-level crossing routes than the Packers, but the Panthers can at least use a similar strategy on the defensive line if not the coverage calls: lots and lots of stunts. They will have every opportunity to feast on an inexperienced and talentless trench unit. On offense the Panthers have a challenge against a defensive secondary that's unremarkable as a unit, but bolstered by a quality pass rush. The good news is they've allowed the 7th most yards in the league to tight ends. Greg Olsen is licking his chops. With starting CB2 Jason McCourty questionable for Sunday, expect to see plays like the following: The strong safety (bracketed in red) is the target here. The outside corner at the bottom of your screen is turned, trying to route his man (Philly Brown) inside. Fine. Run him inside on a drag five yards upfield, occupying the OLB and making him release the tight end (or get burnt by brown.) This is a pretty simple way to get one-on-one coverage, especially when the other side of the field is forcing the free safety to roll out to protect Ginn's deep route along the sideline. Cam is money throwing up the seam and this is a matchup Olsen wins all day. Easy touchdown. On a final note: Cam Newton transcended his position at quarterback by becoming both the police, a cultural hero, and the patron saint of Bank of America Stadium. Moved to artistry, I painted this rendition of Cam stealing those Packers fans' banner and running off with it. Picture quality is poor due to my camera's lack of a flash. I call it Solidarity's Genesis. 13x17 oil on canvas, $300 Here's to titans falling. View full article
  14. 74 points
  15. 71 points
    Fact: Odell Beckham Jr's actions on the playing field, particularly his helmet to helmet hit on Josh Norman, was about the dirtiest thing you will ever see on the football field. Fact: The Giants are now throwing everything they possibly can at the problem to help minimize the damage done to Beckham Jr's reputation. On Monday, it was a silly baseball bat excuse. An excuse that was mostly laughed at nationally. As if anyone believed for a second OBJ felt threatened by a bat on the sidelines. If he was threatened by it, he made no mention of it in the post game interviews. It only came up well after he was caught, dead to rights, spearing Josh Norman in the helmet while Norman was not looking. This move earned OBJ a one game suspension, but should have been more. Now it is Tuesday, and the Giants are aware the silly bat excuse didn't stick. They need a new reason why the face of their franchise and their number 1 selling jersey would do such a thing. A-Ha! Odell Beckham Jr was called mean names during the game. Names that referred to his sexual orientation. That is why he threw punches. That is why he tried to injure Josh Norman by spearing him in the head. He was bullied! That's the ticket! Lets get on this anti-bullying campaign train and ride this thing out. The problem here is that every week in every game, names are being called. I have been on the sidelines for nearly a hundred times now, and I don't even notice anymore. It is part of the game in any professional sport. Get in the head of your opponent. Take him out of the game mentally. I don't know if names were called in OBJ's direction. Heck, I would be shocked if they weren't. I would be shocked if the Giants didn't yell names and expletives as as well. I would be shocked if this didn't happen on any given Sunday on any football field across the nation. But I do know one thing, I have never seen it used as an excuse, before now, to intentionally try to injure another player. If Odell Beckham Jr felt so torn over the alleged names called, would he have hugged multiple Panthers defensive players after the game? Shaq Thompson, Roman Harper, Luke Keuchly to name a few. Would he have snuck in a pinch on Cam Newton's rear during Newton's on camera interview after the game, trying to get a reaction from Newton? I was standing behind Newton and witnessed it myself and thought nothing of it. Last week Mike Tolbert smacked Cam Newton's rear during an interview and got a hilarious reaction. No big deal. These actions don't sound like those of a man supremely offended by what was said on the playing field. They sound like business as usual. Things are said on the field, and after the game everyone understands that what is said on the field is business. So here is the bottom line.... In their attempt to skirt blame and redirect negativity, Odell Beckham Jr and the Giants organization set an even worse example to their fans and continue to make this a national news story. The right move would have been to accept responsibility, accept punishment, and apologize gracefully so that we could all move on to next Sunday. THAT would have been the right way to minimize the damage done to OBJ's image. People are always willing to forgive someone who is honest and sincere. Clearly, Odell Beckham Jr is neither of these things. View full article
  16. 71 points
    Six weeks ago we visited the immortal fate of Sisyphus, Greek king damned to a fate of eternally rolling a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down right when it reached the top. The folks over at Existential Comics did a nice job with it (it's a lot funnier now that we've pushed that boulder over the crest with the downfall of the Seattle Seahawks.) But alas, as is the case with any franchise plagued by long periods of mediocrity, we still have lots of mileage to get out of the Sisyphean analogy. If Sisyphus is Panthers, and the boulder an NFL team, there is perhaps no candidate more appropriate than the Dallas Cowboys. This is a matchup that reflexively triggers bad tastes in the mouths of Carolina fans at its mere mention, tapping into a frustrating legacy of bad teams caught at bad times and good teams caught at bad times and good teams at good times caught by bad referees. That cursed boulder has been tumbling backwards for as long as any of us can remember. With Thanksgiving a scant three days away, and an impending matchup that invokes ineffable angst deep in the stomach pits of all Panthers fans, I've decided to assemble an abbreviated history of the Carolina-Dallas matchups. It's abbreviated because I've marked 2005 as the genesis of Sisyphean tendencies; it's latter-day Cowboys games that've proved so maddening. Five games punctuate our history, each more gut-wrenchingly infuriating than the last. Let's have a look. 2005 (L 20-24) With ten years of hindsight a lot of people point to this as the greatest Panthers offense of all time. Jake Delhomme had come off a career year in 2004 and extended it with Steve Smith's triple crown season. The team rolled into this late-season game with a 10-4 record, a game ahead of the Bucs for first place in a highly competitive NFCS. Winning this game and then beating the hapless Falcons would seal the division and leave the Panthers with a first-round bye. Needless to say, this would be a bad contest to drop. Two terrible things happened in this game. Midway through the third quarter Terrance Newman hit Steve Smith out of bounds, and Smith ran up to a ref to (rightly) complain about the no-call. He committed the cardinal sin of touching that ref and was promptly flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected. Smith was livid. Fox was livid. Delhomme was livid. I was livid, I almost died. But Delhomme threw the game on his back, marched down in the fourth quarter in response, and threw a touchdown to Ricky Proehl for a late three-point lead. Here Sisyphus surfaced for the first time. With their final possession the Cowboys marched down the field and lined up for what would be a game-tying field goal, leaving Carolina three minutes on the clock to go grab a game-winner. Julius Peppers and Ken Lucas miraculously blocked it - and then were famously flagged for roughing the kicker. It was the worst single-play ref job in Panthers history. "I definitely touched the ball, both me and God know it," Lucas said about the play, after Drew Bledsoe, given a new set of downs, tossed the game-winning touchdown. God, Ken Lucas, and all of us know this atrocious call kicked off a full decade of equally atrocious Panthers-Cowboys matchups. 2006 (L 14-35) This season was a disappointment from the start, so a screw job in a Cowboys game was a natural fit on the menu. Keyshawn Johnson was supposed to be the key free agent that would put the Panthers over the top, but the first two games quickly upended those expectations. Two crushing losses followed by a narrow win over the Buccaneers summed up that season. It was up and down all year. Dallas rolled into town to face a 4-3 squad that might actually be the streakiest team in Panthers history. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes atrocious, this game was a microcosm of that season. The offense scored early, the defense forced a turnover, and then a Steve Smith rushing touchdown made it 14-0 Panthers. But Dallas went on to score 35 unanswered points, led by a young undrafted free agent named Tony Romo. A deplorable defensive secondary (that day) and an anemic passing attack (supplemented by referees refusing to call flagrant holds on Julius Peppers for four quarters, rendering him sackless on the day) contributed to another crushing loss. A win here would've put a 9-7 Panthers team in the playoffs. Instead it was another moribund 8-8 John Fox season, on the bright brink of vitality but, as usual, only grazing it. 2007 (L 13-20) Miracles do happen. The Panthers beat an outstanding Seattle Seahawks squad at home in week fifteen, only allowing a touchdown in the final seconds when Quinton Teal or somebody went for the interception instead of just batting it down. This was a tremendous upset, and it placed the Matt Moore-led Panthers at 6-8, mathematically still alive for the playoffs. Winning out - with some help - could land the Panthers a wild card spot. Just gotta beat Dallas on that newfangled Saturday Night Football thing! This game was fairly unremarkable. Both teams traded momentum all night, though the Panthers never led. They stayed in it the whole game, though, answering every Cowboys score with one of their own, and halfway into the fourth quarter a gorgeous Thomas Davis interception put the Panthers one score away from tying it up. Wunderkind quarterback Matt Moore got the ball back with a chance to go win the ballgame on national television, and began a march down the field. Never in my life will I forget watching Drew Carter run his route up the middle of the field on 3rd and 8, beating linebacker Jacques Reeves, who then proceeded to cling to him like superman's cape for the next eight yards while a perfectly-placed ball dropped into Carter's molested, premature-tackle-contorted body. No flag. Unforgivably terrible no-call; there was no subjectivity involved. It was a flagrant pass interference in front of two referees, uncalled. Carolina punted, gave up a field goal, and lost the game. Jobbed. 2009 (L 7-21) Tony Fiammetta was drafted this year in hopes of developing the world's best running attack. It was largely a success, but in true fashion general manager Marty Hurney ignored gaping needs elsewhere. The Panthers went into week three with Nick Hayden and Everette Brown as mainstays on the defensive line with two ugly losses under their belts. This year was a harbinger of horrors to come in the following one, and the Cowboys provided the salt in the opening wound. As one of the league's best running teams that year (remember Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, and Felix Jones back when that three-headed-monster thing was in vogue?) they were able to consistently punch it past Hayden, Damione Lewis, and the rest of that recalcitrantly inept defensive front seven (Beason was still Beason, but consistently marginalized by upfield blockers all year.) With the score 7-3 in the Panthers' favor midway through the third quarter (it one of the few good defensive games that squad put together) Jake Delhomme's dying arm lobbed a deep ball for Muhsin Muhammed, who caught it for a deep touchdown, the big-play game-breaker Carolina desperately needed. Then the refs called it back for a ticky-tack offensive pass interference call at odds with the tenor they'd set for officiating all game. It led to a Carolina punt, a Dallas field goal, and then Jake Delhomme's dying arm's game-losing pick-six. So it goes. 2012 (L 14-19) Maybe it's just because it's lodged in recent memory, but this game might actually have been the most maddening of the five. Keep in mind the 2012 season was maddening to begin with; the Panthers had seen Chudzinski's offense crumble in the season opener and enjoyed one win over the Saints before being humbled by a home drubbing by the Giants, a certain Haruki Nakamura play, and another loss to the Seahawks. They went into their bye 1-4 and came out of it facing the Dallas Cowboys. This game was strange to watch because familiar icons like Cam and Luke were surrounded by people that seem like ancient history. Louis Murphy, James Anderson, ol' Bullethead. It was strange to watch plays that I've seen the Panthers succeed on a thousand times over this season, but absolutely fell apart in that year. This Cowboys game was no exception. It was maddening. I know, I was there with my pregnant wife trying not to jostle her while I flailed with rage. Score-wise the game wasn't so bad. Tolbert grabbed the lead on a goal-line thrust part way through the fourth, putting the Panthers up by a point. But, characteristically, officiating knocked it out of reach. Two calls in particular were unforgivably bad: a no-call on blatant fourth-down DPI that left Louis Murphy and the entire stadium insane with fury and the Cowboys with great field position, and then immediately after that a phantom horse collar tackle on James Anderson that showed up on the replay as a perfectly legal tackle nowhere near the horse collar. Both were crucial, game-deciding calls by an arbitration crew expected not to affect the outcome of a game. Perhaps more than in any other Panthers game they failed, and Dallas walked away with a win, sending the Panthers packing to Chicago at a lowly 1-5. It may have been the worst loss of the season. Sisyphus takes many forms. So what do we make of this Sisyphean trend? French existential philosopher Albert Camus has his own take on it. Opposing many philosophers who suggested that a true embracing of the absurdity of Sisyphean life is suicide, Camus proposed that the only true response is revolt. Weave your meaning through struggle. Throw down the iron chains of nihilism and an ever-plunging boulder and wrestle that son of a bitch to the top. Camus was onto something; while plenty of us have considered suicide after watching the last five Cowboys matchups, it's in the spirit of the 2015 Carolina Panthers to revolt. They've done it all year, pushed that boulder upward with single-minded determination. How, exactly: They can revolt by taking down a mid-tier Cowboys secondary forced to start rookie free safety Byron Jones in place of injured CB Morris Claiborne. The Dolphins beat him like a drum all day. They can revolt by stifling a suddenly vulnerable-looking Cowboys offensive line that consists of Doug Free struggling against speed rushers and interior guards susceptible to talented, stunting under tackles (like Kawann Short.) They can revolt by frustrating an incredibly emotional Dez Bryant into making stupid, game-losing plays (or lack of plays entirely.) They can revolt by forcing Tony Romo into impressively desperate throws that invariably turn into picks, as happened multiple times against the Dolphins. They can revolt by grinding out tough ground yards against a Cowboys defensive line susceptible to undisciplined run defense, poor contain, and consistently leaving gaping holes between guard and tackle. They can revolt by punching Dallas in the mouth, and, collectively, punching the throats of every mealy-mouthed pundit, informationless fan, wheedling bookie, and narrative-driven columnist calling for a "juggernaut" 3-7 Cowboys team to ruin the season of the most overrated 10-0 team in existence. So get out the turkey and pop open some cranberry sauce: in three days' time we'll have a new page in the abbreviated history of the Panthers and Cowboys. It'll begin - and end - with revolt. View full article
  17. 68 points
    NASCAR used to matter. Back when glam bands were in and nobody had heard of the internets and Lee Atwater was laying the groundwork for a Donald Trump candidate, stock car racing was on a meteoric rise, ascending past baseball to reach the enviable position as the second-most watched spectator sport in America behind the NFL. Guys used to drink a six-pack of Coors before climbing into their cars and punch each other in the face on the turn-three infield grass. NASCAR was unscripted and unpredictable, filled with characters and therefore fun to watch. One of the most entertaining figures to emerge out of the 1980s racing scene was a guy named Darrell Waltrip. If you know anything about racing (congratulate yourself if you don't) you know Darrell Waltrip has been commentating races for decades and iconically jumped out of the booth to stand with his hands pressed against the glass to watch his younger brother win the 2001 Daytona 500 while Dale Earnhardt died in turn four. They call him "D.W." and he does that "boogity-boogity-boogity boys let's go racing" thing. He's charismatic and universally loved. But that was not always the case. Darrell Waltrip rose to prominence in the late 1970s by showing up at racetracks and stealing everybody's lunch. Darrell Waltrip was the Jeff Gordon of the 1980s: this fresh punk kid who hadn't paid his dues driving his city-slicker ass up and down the track and giving dinosaurs like Richard Petty championship competition. He didn't drive a rainbow car so they couldn't call him gay like Jeff Gordon, but man they booed Darrell Waltrip somethin' fierce. He couldn't win a game of checkers at the Cracker Barrel without some pissed-off Bobby Allison fan from Chickpea Junction, Alabama hucking an empty Keystone Lite can at his head. They hated him because he was different and they hated him because he was beating their favorite drivers. They hated Darrell Waltrip because he was great, and they always would, they swore. Then suddenly it was 1989 and everything changed. Not unlike a dumb Taylor Swift album by the same name, this year saw a young, marginally-capable product trying to assert itself as a top-shelf talent. His name was Rusty Wallace and he was trying to make a name for himself. In the 1989 running of The Winston, he positioned his inferior car behind Darrell Waltrip's awesome car and purposely spun him out on the final lap. Wallace went on to win the race five seconds later, Waltrip bitterly and famously said he hoped Wallace would choke on the $200,000 purse, and by some strange twist of fate, the entire crowd - all of which had consistently booed Waltrip - suddenly rained down a chorus on Rusty Wallace that would make a Browns quarterback blush. That year Rusty Wallace won the Winston Cup championship, but Darrell Waltrip became the most popular driver in NASCAR. It was one of the most dramatic public perception turnarounds in sports history. I think Cam Newton is this generation's Darrell Waltrip. Cam Newton has been a bad guy for the entirety of his career. Media-driven narratives saw to that from the moment he declared for the draft. No amount of winning or charitable effort could sway the vitriol. And that on-the-field stuff? Pointing after first downs, celebrating, wearing a towel on his head... And then, of all things, dabbin' on them folks? That's it. That was Cam's Darrell Waltrip moment. The day he dabbed on the Tennessee Titans defense late in that scrappy game was the moment Waltrip rounded turn three the apparent winner. And the day the aghast mother from Nashville wrote a viral letter to Cam Newton trashing him for dancing was the moment Rusty Wallace came out of nowhere and spun him out. That changed everything. Fans across the Carolinas mobilized in support. ESPN commentators laughed and dismissed it. The undefeated Panthers rallied in the midst of it and drubbed the Redskins a week later. Then when Cam ran in for a touchdown against Dallas on national television he appropriated some corny Happy Days doo-wop with Betsy Sue and took it back to the 1950s. Everyone laughed because it was hysterical. Everyone. Not Cowboys fans obviously, or NFC South fans, but in the two-week span from the beginning of the faux outrage at the Titans to Cam's midtown boogie at Dallas, you could feel the tone of the entire nation's opinion of Cam Newton collectively shift. You could feel the annoyance at a quarterback doing those sorts of things finally collapse, the resolve of old-style traditionalists finally crumble with the realization that Cam is both harmless and infectious, the dissonance between liking guts and moxie but disapproving of Cam finally crystalizing, and shattering. You could feel the last of it seep away when Jerry Richardson himself strode into the locker room, threw up an arm, and snapped his head forward, dabbed on 'em. The camera shook as the players roared and you knew something special had happened in that moment. Dabbing had just been officially sanctified. Now the Panthers are 12-0 and Cam Newton is on his way to an MVP nod and a cemented position as one of the most popular players in the league, if not the most popular. An entertainer and an icon, a guy who'll win superbowls and spend twenty years in the broadcasting booth. The most popular football player of his generation, all because, like Darrell Waltrip, a nobody with something to say played dirty and spun him out. Thank you, Rusty Wallace. Thank you, Rosemary Plorin. The tidal wave will only grow as the Panthers continue to win and Cam's genuine love of the game transcends the fact-barren monoliths of the uninformed masses. Of course, to continue to win, the Panthers need to beat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. To that end, here are ten things the Panthers need to turn up a home field victory: 1) show up 2) show up 3) show up 4a) show up 4b) show up 5) show up 6) show up I'm not even kidding. The Falcons are terrible. They're structurally broken and the mess matriculates to every level of that organization. They're cracking and splitting apart. Thomas Dimitroff is going to lose his job. A new GM will probably want a new quarterback. Roddy White is as good as gone. Half a decade later and they're still ignoring personnel issues in the trenches. They're soft and selfish and overrated. They live and die on the deep crossing routes, so we'll play man and unleash the dogs at Matt Ryan all day long. Predicting blowouts is bad news, but the Falcons are in for a mauling by the best team in the NFL. 45-13 Panthers 13-0 View full article
  18. 67 points
    Each week I bring to you the very best of what my camera lens captures all in high definition. You don't want to miss any of these images.. Without further ado..... Along the Sidelines - Panthers at Cowboys View full article
  19. 66 points
    After a month of sweating my ass off doing anthropology in Vietnam, I'm sitting in remote upland Laos decompressing before catching a flight back home. I spent yesterday riding a motorcycle across a mountain in monsoon season for twelve hours, so today is a lazy day, which is how I justify spending precious time in Southeast Asia on the internet writing about how we're going to be an offensive juggernaut this year. Traditionally, when the nickel defense is on the field (an OLB's spot is replaced by the third corner) it's to get some speed and athleticism on the field to combat an extra receiver on the field. This has placed the nickelback in the slot most of the time. Much has been made in the past of archetypical slot receivers: incredibly fast, deep burners, Steve Smith types that can make the nickelback play on an island deep if the safety bites on play action or hesitates to cover an outside receiver. In this tradition, nickelbacks have tended to be smaller, really athletic guys. PFF stats suggest going into last year's season that the top-rated nickelbacks were: Leon HallChris Harris Jr.Brandon BoykinWilliam GayTyrann MathieuNickell RobeyJimmy WilsonBrandon FlowersKyle WilsonDarius ButlerI calculated their average heights whilst eating Laotian ice cream overlooking the Mekong River, and came out with 5'9" as the height of the average starting nickelback at the beginning of last season. The reason this is important is because that height average is about to jump much higher over the next half decade. The dual archetypes of the slot receiver and the slot corner are changing. NFL offenses are beginning to split out huge dudes that can catch, putting the likes of Gronk and Jimmy Graham against midgets like Captain Munnerlyn and putting up countless big performances against them. The response: "big nickel" packages. Rob Ryan's vaunting sixteen-safety defense last year was a hilarious example of how not to conduct the scheme, but in general you're starting to see teams experiment with bringing a third safety onto the field instead of a nickelback in nickel packages, effectively replacing a smaller athletic guy with a big dude that might not be quite as fast or athletic but can match up with big men like Gronk (who dominate because of their size and strength anyway, rather than their speed.) Here are the Giants lining up with a third safety against the Eagles big-ass tight end package: Here are the the assbag Saints dropping Vacarro down into the box in place of the nickel: Here are the Cardinals sneaking Mathieu into a dime package but playing him like a nickel: Playing a big nickel formation makes it easier to disguise coverages, too. Look at this formation against the Saints in 2013: Drew Bree's mole yelled an audible and sent Jimmy Graham (circled) in motion. This causes the nickel back to shift out and line across from him, revealing man coverage. Dropping a third safety in there instead of the obvious nickelback makes disguising coverage much easier. With three safeties on the field in a nickel package, there's no guarantee which of the safeties are dropping back to play the deep pass and which are covering zones or an individual receiver. It can be dissected pretty quickly, but it's one extra thing the quarterback has to think about and account for. The Eagles have become recent masters of this, experimenting effectively with really bizarre lineups at safety, including single deep and two up front playing zone. IIRC it's one of the things they killed us with on MNF last year. So where does this leave the 2015 Carolina Panthers? On offense: it means we've suddenly got three receiving threats (Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, and Greg Olsen) along with a shorter guy (Corey Brown) who'd traditionally take the slot receiver role. The fact that these guys should be largely interchangeable means that teams still utilizing smaller nickels (remember, their starting average height was 5'9" going into last season!) may have to face a 6'5" receiver coming out of the slot. The addition of Funchess and the ability of Corey Brown to play from the number one receiver position is invaluable here. since Brown can kick out wide and take a safety and cornerback out of the play by himself on a post, Funchess can cut into a field devoid of defenders because backers have to account for Greg Olsen. This sticks a 6'5" man on little Captain Munnerlyns that have defined the position for so long. An offensive coordinator worth his salt can take this roster and introduce plenty of wrinkles that allow favorable mismatches. The reverse of the above scenario would be lining putting Funchess and Benjamin out there to draw Big Nickel packages and then rolling Corey Brown into the slot to take advantage of a slower safety on a deep play or a clearout. These are all options we didn't have before adding Funchess. On defense: the addition of Shaq Thompson may be warrant more excitement than the fanbase seems to be displaying. Shaq has been tabbed by many as a starting OLB, and he appears to be getting a lot of looks at the position based on initial OTA reports. However, at 6'0" with outstanding athleticism, Shaq may actually fit the precise archetype of the Big Nickel joker safety, the role we'd hoped Haruki Nakamura would take on a few years ago before he pooped all over our hopes for the 2012 campaign. Gettleman seems to think Boston and Harper are both good safeties, so Shaq's presence doesn't exclude either of them. Shaq's ability to command the OLB position may also give Rivera and McDermott some fun options for disguising plays as well. A 4-3 base with Keuchly, Davis, and Shaq as linebackers wouldn't be much different from a nickel package employing Shaq as the nickel. As an opposing offense, accounting for Shaq's role in a particular play can become complicated, especially when trying to figure out what other safeties are doing. Conclusion: Gettleman's first and second round picks both adapted to a major scheme change we're seeing on both sides of the ball in the NFL. Both are premium players at their respective positions, and should give us a significant edge in those areas. This is one of the primary reasons I expect us to be a very dangerous team in 2015.
  20. 65 points
    I can do without threads debating this nonsense but I don't always get what I want.
  21. 63 points
    Approximately 2.5 million years ago a major shift occurred among earth's proto-human species. Up until that point, the most advanced form of primates were Australopithecines. Large and robust, they employed arboreal physical features to forage in the trees and, to a limited extent, the ability to walk upright to gather food and hunt game. But fossil evidence shows a sudden explosion in ability and habit, the result of which is the relatively quick emergence of a new species - Homo habilis. Marked by an increased brain-mass-to-body-size ratio and the first recorded use of tools, H. habilis is roundly agreed upon as beginnings of something new, something almost human. Much debate circles around the process of becoming human. Most of it has focused on key foods that allowed for evolutionary selection and adaptation to acquiring it; the most notorious one is the idea that hunting vertebrates was the trigger for the explosion of human traits. The model goes like this: Meat is an incredibly valuable part of the diet; Individuals best equipped to hunt meat are those that can stand tallest and walk the longest distances; Individuals that can stand the tallest and walk the longest distances breed more, and nature selects for those traits; Thus, populations gradually become better equipped to hunt. This model is generally accepted. Using it as a base, others hypothesize that, for instance, the invention of fire and cooking led to the formation of social solidarity, male-female pair bonds, and even language; those are, of course, heavily debatable. But the above model endures, and can be summed up as follows: Adapt to your ecological niche or you're dead. The same is also true in football. Scientists confirm Andrew Luck is the closest living relative of H. habilis Much like the survival of a species is dependent on its ability to adapt to the often-changing environment around it, offensive coordinators in the NFL must act and react according to defensive situations and gameplans, both in the short term (in individual games) and the long term (throughout the course of the season, or several seasons.) Our own Mike Shula remains enigmatic precisely because his apparent short-term flaws must be weighed against what appear to be long-term adaptive strengths. Let's break them down. Short-term Shula Last week the Titans came in with a very specific game plan: make up for the injury-wracked cornerback position by sending blitzers on nearly every down. It was a very good plan, actually, taking advantage of an extremely underrated defensive line able to hold gaps well enough allow linebackers through. In fact, if it wasn't for several defensive gaffes (like playing unblitzed zone coverage against Greg Olsen) and a Carolina defensive line that controlled the line of scrimmage all day, Mularkey may have sent the Panthers packing with their first loss of the season. Mularkey's defense was relentless, and Mike Shula went three quarters without making adjustments to counter it. The obvious call for constant pressure is screens; you let the blitzers cross the line of scrimmage and then lob it over their heads into a convoy. If you don't do that you keep in extra guys to protect and release them upfield, or at least designate a hot receiver to occupy the vacated zone. Instead we saw this: Four go routes, developing at various phases twenty yards downfield, and what looks like a very deep, complex option break to the sideline by the tight end. No hot routes, no designated protection, all in the face of an incredibly obvious blitzing situation and three linebackers telegraphing the impending rush. The play, predictably, was a sack. The Titans tallied five of them on the day, and would've had more if not for Cam's escapability. Shula's adjustments did not come until midway through the first quarter when he called a smoke screen and a few complementary underneath routes. This kind of rigidity has been symptomatic of Shula's tenure as offensive coordinator, and an enduring criticism of his ability to adapt to defensive schemes in a timely manner. Long-term Shula Calls to unseat Mike Shula have been a constant since week four of the 2013 season. But 2015's 4th-ranked Panthers offense has critics doubting their own fiery prognostications, supporters crowing their final victory, and everyone else trying to figure out whether Cam's outstanding play is making Shula look good, vice versa, or a combination of the two. Whoever gets the credit, and however deficient he may be in game-time adjustments one thing is clear: Mike Shula has evolved. He has adjusted in two critical ways that have aided in the success of this year's offense. 1) He's given Cam options at the line. Much has been made in years past of Shula's inflexible play-calls; conversation has buzzed around microanalysis of Shula's off-the-cuff remarks about Cam's frustration at play calls. But around the beginning of this season we began seeing a much different dynamic: play calls coming in at a much faster rate, leaving time for on-field diagnosis. No longer does Cam walk up to the line with 0:04 on the play clock to point out the blitzing linebacker. Instead Shula gives Cam a predetermined suite of plays based on the defensive personnel that Cam can select based on the defensive alignment. Such an instance took place midway through the first quarter. In the following frame, the offense lines up with a play call that, based on the personnel, is probably something like the following. Notice Stewart shifting out to a slot position from the backfield. But Cam looks at the formation and immediately knows something's up. "No sir, this is some bullshit," he says, probably out loud, seeing defensive lineman standing up and linebackers clustered oddly and showing blitz. In past years the play clock would've been at zero already, so Cam would've had no choice but to snap the ball. Instead he walks up the the line and changes the play to another in the situational set. If those linebackers are blitzing, the standing lineman may be getting ready to drop into coverage, into the flats to ruin any dump-offs or into the middle of the field to jump any crossers. Cam approaches the formation and changes the play. Notice the MLB here changing the play as a result (or pretending to.) The new play retains the formation of the old one, but with new route combos. Most notable are Stewart and Dickson, who now stay in as blockers before releasing upfield as blitz outlets. Ed Dickson's spot keeps the SLB low and Philly Brown's route keeps the deep safety high, and the throw to Greg Olsen is predictably successful, for a critical first down. Carolina kept the momentum and went on to score. In years past, we may not have seen the offense have time to recover. 2) Shula has abandoned bad plays. This is his other adaptation, in the truest sense of the word. Behaviors that don't result in positive gain are selected against by nature and NFL front offices, and Shula has apparently felt the pressure. The Bersin-on-bubble-screens trope is a thing of the past. So are Cotchery's misfit go routes. Rather than forcing players into variable roles because of a philosophy, Shula has recognized weaknesses on the roster and instead adapted the personnel groups accordingly. John Fox made that precise error for the latter half of his tenure here; his failure to adapt was ultimately his downfall. Will Mike Shula's ability to adapt earn him staying power in the NFL? That remains to be seen. The good here doesn't necessarily mask the bad. But like Rivera, he is learning, adapting, changing in ways that make him and his team the most fit to sit at the top of the pile. Homo habilis' adaptation begat Homo erectus, which begat Homo neanderthalensis, which gave way to modern humans; is it too much to hope that it'll allow Shula and the Panthers to go 10-0? View full article
  22. 62 points
  23. 61 points
    Lilsmitty also known as Connor has taken a job in video production with the Carolina Panthers. He was previously one of the guys that was responsible for Cam's videos. But before all that he was the guy that made cool Panthers vids and posted them on here and social media for people to enjoy. Congrats bro!
  24. 61 points
    Gather 'round and lend me your ears, countrymen, for the greatest story ever told. Once upon a time a man was born. But he was no ordinary man! No, this man arrived at our unlikely story in the unlikeliest of ways: the product, perhaps, of Fortune's smiling favor, the manifestation of an ancient prophecy, the miraculous gift of God Himself. Against all odds, and against the grit teeth and clench-jawed fury of kings and tyrants and foes on the field of battle, this man only ascended in power and reputation. His growth was marked by awe and wonder, his miracles excitedly penned by every scribe, his praises sung in every tongue across every nation. He, and those he led, were perfect. He was unblemished, unstained, untarnished by the black stains of defeat and decay that marred the broken world around him. But man is a jealous creature, and men hate few things more than the bright light perfection in another. And thus did the wicked conspire, demanding amongst themselves the demise of he whose record was perfect. They demanded the end of his reign, the cessation of his miracles, the mockery of a Christmas child. I am not talking about Cam Newton. I am talking about Jesus Christ. That's right, the Jesus Christ. The Jesus Christ who was perfect in every way, the Jesus Christ whose records are immortalized in two millennia of canon, the Jesus Christ of sweet salvation and blessed rebirth for whom Creation groans. That Jesus Christ, his record perfect, nevertheless found hanging derelict on a cross, bloodied, conquered; his followers in tearful grief, trudging home to their boats and their farms and the mundane banalities of the everyday life they'd known before they'd followed Perfection. Identities stripped, morale weakened, faith shaken. "The Cardinals will destroy us in the slot!" cried the Apostle Peter. "Seriously, Jesus, your swim move would be fire at defensive end." Let's be honest. The Falcons played the best game of their life. They executed their gameplan flawlessly, and although they were held to 17 points as a result of several red-zone miscues, they were astonishingly successful on third down. Let's take a look at what they did. In the screen below, the Falcons are backed up against the goal line and assemble in a single-wing formation with Julio Jones kicked out wide. Josh Norman is covering him. Notice anything? Josh Norman's body is angled inside. That means he's playing an inside technique. When corners play inside technique, they are essentially - you guessed it - attempting to route the receiver inside. In other words, they're trying to keep the receiver from getting leverage outside, cutting past them, up the sideline behind them. Teams who are worried about getting beat deep or lost in coverage will often employ this, preferring to chase a guy down on a post, slant, or crossing route and utilize linebackers in zone to take care of the stuff underneath. But you can disguise it. Corners do it all the time. If this coverage were disguised, Norman might square off with the receiver, giving no indication which way he's going to try to jam the route. He might even play mind games, cheating towards the sideline with his body and telegraphing an intention to route the receiver outside, but then quickly coming back in at the snap. A lot of teams' number ones can signal to the quarterback that they're changing the route, so conceivably Norman could end up surprising an offense by being inside a quick timing route. It's happened before, and in fact it happens all the time in the NFL. It's part of playing defense in the modern era. Josh Norman doesn't disguise his intentions, though. He angles his body inside. He routes the receiver inside. The receiver runs his route inside. The receiver catches the ball inside for a critical first down. It wasn't just on this play. The Falcons ran inside and away from corners like this all day long. They were content not throwing deep; that's not Matt Ryan's game anyway. They took the underneath stuff, tossed to holes in zones, and took advantage of cornerbacks trailing speedy receivers on lateral patterns by throwing precision strikes on short and intermediate routes. The result? Well... Those numbers speak for themselves. Not all of Julio Jones's yards came against Norman, but a huge chunk of them did. It's not the kind of performance we're used to seeing out of this squad and it's hard to imagine Rivera sticking with it. With an anemic pass rush and clear weaknesses at nickel back, the zone defense is much too easy to exploit, and the results looked frighteningly similar to 2012's play-not-to-lose game plans. It's much easier to give the offense a pass. In the five games prior to this one they averaged 39 points, which is damn near historical. It isn't difficult to imagine a fired-up Cam Newton and a young, eager stable of running backs carrying the load to dominate the field against the Buccaneers on Sunday. But there's concern. Right tackle Mike Remmers has looked shaky in pass protection for two straight games. Third-string rookie Cameron Artis-Payne is the current starter at running back. Magic is real and Cam Newton is 0-1 with a baby. Cause to panic? Hell no! Did Jesus panic when the Romans savagely killed him for being the freaking Son of God? Hell no! Jesus gutted up and did the manliest, most unselfish thing possible: he laid down his life for his friends. He spent three days in sheol, a Hebrew word that approximates as "Metairie, Louisiana" in English, and then managed to come back from it just in time to crash a house party and teach a bunch of fishermen how it's done, right out there on the Bay. He rallied everyone, saved the universe, sealed Satan's fate, locked his followers in to the ultimate ride to the ultimate destination, and then ascended like a Superb Owl to the right hand of God, where now he sits, smiling down on you and me, waiting for you to accept his invitation to believe. And that, my friends, is the greatest story ever told. So hark! and be of good cheer: we're no longer perfect, but Jesus Christ has vanquished death itself. Whom then shall we fear? Certainly not Jameis Winston. And all God's people said Amen. 15-1 View full article
  25. 61 points
    Each week I bring to you the best photos my camera captures, all in HD. These photos make a great desktop or phone background. I do hope you enjoy. Without further ado... Along the Sidelines - Panthers at Seahawks View full article
  26. 59 points
    Not only has Cam Newton earned the Most Valuable Player of the NFL this season, he has redefined the position along the way. Anyone who watches the Panthers play on Sundays clearly understands this fact. However, there are still a few who try to dismiss Newton’s performance using the old way of judging a quarterback. Allow me to present to you the main bullet points of Cam Newton’s amazing 2015 MVP bid. 3837 Yards Passing - 16th in NFL Here is the one stat that is not all that impressive. Cam Newton only threw for 3837 yards. Strange that in this day and age nearly 4000 yards passing is not particularly impressive. If Cam Newton played the entire games against Atlanta and Tampa Bay, he may have surpassed 4000 yards. But, as you can see by the following stats… it really doesn’t matter. Many doubters will point to Cam’s completion percentage. It is easy to spot a living room couch expert that way. They have no idea how many dropped passes Newton has played through. Heck, if Ted Ginn held on to just half of his drops alone Cam Newton would have had well over 4000 yards and been ranked in the top 10 in this category. 7.8 Yards per pass - 7th in the NFL The Panthers are a running team. In fact, they ranked 2nd in the NFL in rushing overall. Naturally, on a team based on the run, the QB will be throwing less. Taking this into account, Cam Newton averaged 7.8 yards per pass which ties him for 7th in the league. This is more yards per attempt than Tom Brady. Throw in the fact that Cam did so without a single wide receiver that would start on any other NFL team. This stat becomes not only impressive, but nearly unbelievable. 35 passing touchdowns - 2nd in the NFL (tied with Bortles, E. Manning, Palmer) Thats right, Cam Newton is tied for 2nd place in the NFL for number of touchdowns thrown, also known as the most important stat for a QB in football. Moving down the field is meaningless if a QB cannot deliver in the red zone. Again, without a wide receiver that would start on any other NFL team. Simply amazing. Ok, so there are some traditional QB stats that clearly show Cam Newton is one of the top QB’s in the league. Do these stats make him a MVP candidate? Not really. They make him a very good quarterback. Now comes the part where he has redefined the position…. 56 Rushing First Downs - 5th in the NFL I have said it for many seasons now. Cam Newton is 80% of the Panthers offense. Without his first down runs, many improvised, the Panthers would rank very low on offense. However, because of Cam Newton, the Panthers scored more points in 2015 than any other team in the NFL. Cam Newton single handedly kept the chains moving 56 times this season. This is almost twice as many times as the next QB on the list…. Russell Wilson who ranked 33rd. 10 Rushing Touchdowns - 5th in the NFL (tied with RB Todd Gurley) Cam Newton is tied with probably Rookie of the Year RB Todd Gurley in rushing touchdowns. He is ahead of full time running backs like Doug Martin, David Johnson, DeMarco Murray, the list goes on. Cam Newton has one rushing touchdown less than Adrian Peterson. Take a moment and let that sink in. Cam Newton has already tied Steve Young’s career record for rushing touchdowns. Now, take into consideration that Cam Newton clearly was a very good QB in 2015 despite lack of weapons, he also was a top runner in this league. In other words..... Cam Newton was the majority of the production, both in the air and on the ground, in the offense that scored the most points in the NFL. That, my friends, is MVP defined. View full article
  27. 59 points
    1,400 years ago in modern-day Peru an ancient people called the Wari lived long, prosperous lives amid the arid Pacific deserts and towering Andes peaks. They flourished by merrily establishing vast empires and subjugating their foes by demanding forced labor on Wari construction projects in order to not be slaughtered. They lived here for hundreds of years, spreading as far north as Ecuador and southward, deep into Bolivia and Chile. The Wari produced complex textiles and dazzling art, including vast amounts of intricate pottery (I know because I did archaeological excavation, cataloguing, and reconstruction of a billion smashed pots for three straight months in the Peruvian desert.) The Wari also were arguably the first South Americans to invent beer. This pottery shard also proves they invented Angry Birds. The Wari chugged along for half a millennium, dominating everyone around them, giving no quarter to their foes, continually renowned (if hated) for their adeptness at statecraft. By most accounts they are South America's first empire: revolutionary, insurmountable, indefatigable, beast of the South. That is, until the Inca showed up around 1100 AD and changed the world forever. Known for Machu Picchu, brutal human sacrifices, and armies of insanely-disciplined, song-singing, axe-weilding maniac soldiers, the Inca carved up the Wari Empire with little effort, forever supplanting it as the dominant native force on the continent. The Wari Empire sounds a wee bit like the New Orleans Saints. Dominant for a half a decade, they rode an extremely talented quarterback, opportunistic defense, and illegal, universally-condemned bounty program all the way to a Super Bowl win. Neighboring teams looked at them with hatred, plotting their downfall but never able to execute. But just as the Inca came, so too came the Carolina Panthers. Insanely disciplined and willing to brutally sacrifice opposing players, the Panthers have once again churned out the best defense in the league. They are merciless, they are berserk Inca warriors, and they'll produce the same on-field meat grinder for the Saints that they trotted out last week against the Cowboys. In fact, let's take a look at a few plays from Thursday's mauling of Dallas. It was Carolina's reaction time on defense that contributed most to that win, and has helped establish dominance all season long. Here's Kurt Coleman's interception return for a touchdown with :59 off the clock. The Cowboys line up with a wide trips formation at the bottom of the screen. Both outside receivers are running fly routes, with Romo reading both safeties as playing in deep zones. At the line he sees both Davis and Keuchly dropping down, showing blitz, and knows two things: (1) he's gotta get it out quick if it's a blitz, and (2) if they drop back into zone he can't throw directly to the middle off the field.. What to do? Why, throw at Colin Jones, of course! He's been getting beaten in Benwikere's spot for a while now. This makes Witten (lined up across 42) Romo's primary target: outside receivers will be bracketed up top, and a blitz leaves Witten across a vacated middle zone. Even if they drop back Witten can still get inside Jones for a strike up the seam. The ball is snapped, and below you can see Keuchly dropping into coverage. It's zone! Jones stays in, Witten finds the space around him, and looks to be going up behind 59. Tony Romo sees Witten break open! Those pesky safeties are playing the deep ball because their outside corners aren't good enough to cover those receivers! Better huck it to Witten since those safeties aren't anywh- OH GOD NO WHY GOD Tony Romo didn't realize the free safety was squatting in the zone rather than dropping deep, and his mistake went for six. But Romo's misdiagnosis aside, it's Coleman's reaction time that really makes this play possible. He was ten yards from the play when Witten made his cut and got open, but he instinctively cut inside the instant he saw Romo's eyes flash up the seam. No hesitation. In fact, he got there so fast he he almost outran the interception. That was six points, an incredible play. But somehow Luke Keuchly managed to top it. Late in the second quarter the Cowboys got the ball, determined to march down the field and score before the half. Here they line up with a 3WR 1TE set, out of the shotgun. This is a pretty nice play design. It puts strong safety Roman Harper in the unenviable position of having to diagnose three routes: the WR2 running a complex slant, the slot receiver running a quick out, and the tight end running a fly up the seam. The ball is snapped. It's important to note that Luke is the MLB playing in zone coverage: he's got a broad area assigned, the middle of the field. Notice how Witten, the tight end, is nearly open here: he's streaking the fly, with Keuchly trailing in coverage, and Roman Harper still in limbo, waiting to go deep with the TE or drop in to bracket that streaking Z receiver who's about to break into his slant. Tony Romo can choose one receiver or the other. Seeing Keuchly's back turned upfield drawn away by Witten,, Romo decides to fire at the Z-receive, the guy about to step into his slant. But right as Romo's releasing the ball, Keuchly instinctively breaks off the TE because he's leaving the zone. This releases him to the coverage safety (Harper) and Luke, knowing the strong side of the field is exposed, then instinctively breaks to his right, towards the gap in the zone, the area most likely to be exploited by a slant/out route combo. OH GOD TONY NO Ridiculous instincts, ridiculous discipline, ridiculous execution. Not many players in the league have what it takes to commit to covering a dominant tight end of Witten's caliber well enough to force Romo to a different receiver and then jump that route anyway the moment he decides to make the throw. That is true mastery of his position and the defensive scheme. It's hard to believe Luke was once criticized as being a subpar coverage linebacker. So where do the New Orleans Saints come in? It's simple: they play the Wari to the Panthers' Inca. We're facing a New Orleans team in a New Orleans dome that once represented the impregnable capital fortress of the South. But just like the advancing Inca merely sashayed into the imposing Wari palaces at Pikillacta, so too can the Carolina Panthers - playing historically great defense and set to trounce the declining Saints for the next one thousand years - march into the Superdome and emerge as victors. As a final note: this assertion is supported by the archaeological record. Behold: prophetic, pre-Inca pottery featuring a Panther stealing a Wari person's beer, and a scary winged Panther with a spear featured on a royal vase. When archaeology says you win, you don't lose. 12-0 View full article
  28. 59 points
    Each week this season world traveler, deep thinker, and longtime Huddler PhillyB will be giving us his unique take on the Panthers. This week, he intertwines ancient mythology into a yarn of hope for Panthers fans. Without further ado... Mesopotamian Mythology and the 2015 Carolina Panthers: A Critical Analysis and Best Case Scenario By Phil Blattenberger - Special to the Huddle - @pablattenberger In 1853 an Assyrian archaeologist and antiquarian named Hormuzd Rassam was dusting off cuneiform tablets in an ancient library when we inadvertently stumbled across a collection of texts that formed a long cohesive story of the life and times of the king of Uruk. The story dated back four thousand years to ancient Mesopotamia and is now one of the most famous tales to come out of the ancient world: the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh does a bunch of awesome stuff, including making love to Sumarian hookers for seven straight days and built an ark to save humanity from an oncoming flood long before Noah made it cool, but it's his foray into the desert in search of a fabled cask of Immortality Water that makes him famous. Instead of just asking Russell Wilson to share some of his, Gilgamesh launches out on an expedition, tracks it down with a series of enigmatic maps and brilliant puzzle solves, single-handedly slaughters the rest of the expedition to protect the cask, and takes a blissful nap by an oasis, ready to chug down the Immortality Water when he wakes up. But a viper by the oasis crawls into the cask while he's sleeping, drinks all the water, and crawls out immortal, biting Gilgamesh and leaving him weeping and dying in front of the dregs of immortal life. Kelvin Benjamin is the empty cask of Immortality Water and the bleeding, dying Gilgamesh is your 2015 Carolina Panthers. We had our expedition to the desert, we had our trials and our enigmas, and we slaughtered our challengers and were one nap away from having an awesome season full of immortality, and then Kelvin Benjamin's ACL tore and Carolina's faithful sat perched on the precipice of despair. It's been downright dismal ever since, and the grim reality of our pro-bowl receiver's absence set in with lackluster preseason performances and a general offensive malaise. Plenty of people are sitting in the sand crying over the empty cask. To them I say: bandage your snakebite and go find another cask! Gilgamesh did. In light of his stoicism, here's the best-case scenario for your 2015 Carolina Panthers. 1) The offensive line keeps Cam Newton upright all year long. Here's a fun stat for you. Number of sacks allowed in 2014's preseason: 10 (with countless QB hurries and an injured franchise quarterback.) Number of sacks allowed in 2015's preseason: 5 (despite about a 20% increase in total number of snaps.) Obviously there are too many variables to suggest the offensive line will allow half of last year's sacks, but given what the team was starting last year it's not really that much of a stretch. I mean really look at Byron Bell in pass protection on this play against the Steelers' backups: How many times did we see that over the course of the season? That starting lineup consisted of Byron Bell, Amini Silatolu, Ryan Kalil, Chris Scott, and Nate Chandler. Can you pick a worse lineup in the NFL? That's 2006 Raiders level terrible. But suddenly Michael Oher looks like an NFL-caliber left tackle, stoning every pass rusher he's faced in preseason, and both interior guards have looked downright nasty, especially in run support. We even have depth! Mike Remmers can start at right tackle but also rotate to center, allowing mid-round stud Darryl Williams to step in and take reps at a position he's excelled in. It's not unreasonable to expect these guys to rank in the top half of the league, keeping Cam Newton clean and opening lanes for running backs. 2) Receiving performances effectively negate the absence of Kelvin Benjamin. This is the biggest stretch. Kelvin Benjamin was a legitimate threat, the kind of guy a defense has to gameplan around. Benjamin faced bracket coverage on nearly every play, meaning at least two guys were dedicated to his side of the field, opening up one-on-one matchups for otherwise average receivers. You can't replace that kind of production. But hey, we're being positive! So here's what can happen. Devin Funchess can be a number one receiver. In Air Coryell offensive systems the X is your speed guy. (This is why the Panthers have lined Philly Brown up at that position; the X and the number one receiver are not interchangable terms.) The Panthers think Devin Funchess has the speed and route-running ability to play out of that position, as well as the shiftiness to escape the initial blocks an X is going to face. Greg Olsen has a career year. The truth is everyone on this roster not named Olsen or Funchess is marginal. Ted Ginn Jr. is marginal unless schemes benefit his style of play. Jericho Cotchery is marginal unless schemes benefit his style of play. Ditto for Philly Brown. And the fact is Greg Olsen demands defensive schemes that enable marginal receivers to contribute. He demands the attention of a safety on every single play, since no linebacker in the league can adequately cover him. This provides one-on-one matchups for wide receivers, which is a huge advantage when your receivers aren't good enough to be effective in double coverage. Here is a diagram of a simple pass play the Panthers like to run: Our current personnel grouping is good enough to succeed in a play designed like this. In our scheme Funchess would line up at the X (far left) and probably Philly Brown at the Z (far right.) Your slot receiver is going to be Ted Ginn or Kevin Norwood (the latter of whom was selected because of his ability to run spear routes, quintessential possession plays for a Shula offense that freeze the safety with the X and hitch with the Y.) Olsen lines up at tight end, obviously. This personnel grouping is interchangeable, but this lineup is ideal because it leads Funchess break off his block immediately to run a short slant or drag, which is a big part of his game. Because Philly Brown lines up at the Z, he doesn't have to take the snap at the line of scrimmage, which lets Cam send him in motion, making it much easier for him to get by the line of scrimmage. Here he's working the deep post, which is going to be open because Olsen's working the seam. The reason Olsen and Cam connect so well is because Olsen's got the speed to beat linebackers and the size to take on safeties, meaning he's always open up the seam, and Cam's best throws are horizontal ropes downfield. Lastly you have the Y, the slot guy, who in this case could be Ginn. Note that your Y and your Z are both the team's deep threats, which leaves safeties in the unenviable position of coming back to cover both deep routes and leaving Funchess and Olsen covered by linebackers, or coming in to bracket Funchess and Olsen and leaving the Panthers' speed guys on the perimeter with line corners. Plays like this haven't worked in the past because we haven't had the offensive line personnel that didn't need extra blockers to stay in. These types of packages can become a norm rather than a luxury, and the Panthers can thrive in them. 3) The run game works is effective and Cam Newton has an efficient year. I've grouped these two together because they are inextricable parts of one another. Receiving success can be schemed, but loss of talent in one area means talent in other areas needs to step up. Once again Cam will need to do just that. His offensive line appears primed to give him the best protection he's had since his record-setting rookie season in 2011. 3000+ yards passing, 25 TDs, 15 INTS is a marginal stat line but it's all he needs to do to crank out ten wins with this defense and, of course, a serviceable running game. I think he can do better than that. He has, after all, the best QBR of any starting quarterback in the preseason. Do with that what you will; I call it a good start. 4) Mike Shula improves situational awareness. All the schemes and personnel in the world don't mean much if you can't call a good game. Situational football has always been Shula's and Rivera's weaknesses. Shula is the obvious weak link in a team packed with talent at nearly every roster spot, and his ability to impede the offense can cost the Panthers games. Conclusion With these best case scenarios in mind - and not so far-fetched as one might assume - it's reasonable to suggest the Panthers can go 11-5 playing effective hard-nosed defense and efficient, physical offense. They'll need to start out strong in a relatively mild four-week stretch to open the season and finish strong against division opponents to close out the season and take the third division title in as many years. So take heart: Gilgamesh got up from his snakebite and empty cask of Immortality Water and saved the world instead. There's no reason the Panthers can't do the same. View full article
  29. 58 points
    Once in a generation fate bestows upon some heretofore nonchalant naif a glimpse of the divine: the ineffable wonder of something so brilliant, something so unspeakably awesome that it transcends the human collection of senses. Once in a generation the lucky man or woman may lay eyes on such a sight and see his or her response echo through eternity. Joan of Arc heard a divine word, Katherine Lee Bates eyed the Colorado prairie from atop Pike's Peak, Blaise Pascal felt joy, joy - oceans of joy! Thusly inspired, all of them performed their magnum opus, their life's greatest feat, soon after. What a gift! Oh to be Francis Collins, bursting into the tavern at Cambridge University and screaming his triumph to the world after unlocking the human genome sequence. "We've found the secret to life!" he roared, at the zenith of his life. A dark and stormy night on November 2, 2015 found tens of thousands of Carolina faithful presented with precisely such a gift: an experience so incredible as to be considered transcendent, something so inspiring that in various and sundry ways it demands an outlet, some kind of release. I needed such a release, and it took the form of art. Following are a pair of paintings I, voiceless and glowing, consumed by my inspiration following the victory over the Colts, crafted as a commemorative collection. Each painting is accompanied by an interpretation of style and content as well as its bearing on the win. Without further ado: Out of Luck oil on canvas, 13x17" Monday Night Football was a cathartic experience, a veritable pendulum of emotions. From the early turnovers and apparent dominance to stagnation, surge, and then drastic collapse, hearts and lungs bled down the steps of every deck, mingling with a cold gray rain that, like the Colts, would not acquiesce to the desires of the crowd. It was a frustrating night: maddening penalties, maddening lack of penalties, incompetent reviews, missed opportunities. Lots of missed opportunities. But Andrew Luck's fear was palpable in overtime, and when it mattered the most a pair of stalwarts - budding superstar Luke Keuchly and grizzled veteran Roman Harper - combined to make a play that cut the legs out from under the Colts overtime drive and set Carolina up for the game-winning field goal. Out of Luck is represented in cubist style. A product of the early 20th century, cubism is an avant-garde art style made popular by the likes of Picasso and Braque. Influenced in concept by Cézanne, it is a form of abstract art that eliminates a single perspective, instead displaying subjects from multiple angles on the same dimensional medium. This often leads to a fractured look, as in the painting above. A lot is going on in that scene: Andrew Luck is winding up for the game-sealing interception, his line of sight fixed fearfully on Luke Keuchly's presence. But fans in the stands see something different: Roman Harper's hand, his body marginalized but his digits critically placed, poised for a victorious ball-tipping. Rain streaks from the somber sky, flags litter the fractured landscape, and the football field, like a Dalí painting, melts off the side of an abstracted dimension, the number's fluidity perhaps a metaphor for whimsical spots offered by the referees for four quarters of football. Perseverance in Cerulean, No. 1 oil on canvas, 13x17" Accepting the comeback prowess of a talent-stocked team in the National Football League is one thing. Accepting the outcome-defining agency of neutral parties expected to arbitrate fairly is quite another, and the entire second half was marred by atrociously poor refereeing. Carolina's every advance came in the face of miserable judgement calls, from phantom pass interferences on Greg Olsen to the infamous fourth-down ruling of a completion, upheld in the face of staggering evidence to the contrary. Perseverance in Cerulean, No. 1 is a reflection on the infuriating obstacles faced by the Panthers, and in particular quarterback Cam Newton. It is painted in the tradition of an early 20th century German artistic movement called Der Blaue Reiter. It was a critical part of expressionist styles in that century, and while it lacked any strict rules of composition, it was known for the use of the color blue. Blue is the color of spirituality in this movement: the surging desire for spiritual awakening comes in its darkest hues. Here in the painting Cam Newton stands, hidden at first glance, in the maddening landscape of blotted black and shredded white: a metaphor for the stifling tenor of refereeing in that game. In the face of pressure's most unfair manifestation, Newton stands tall: his helmet faces forward, his shoulders squared, posture loose and confident. Determined, stalwart, a man cool and calculated in the face of bone-cracking pressure. Radiating blue, he and his spiritual presence transcend the dark malaise imposed by an atmosphere of institutionalized hopelessness. Cam Newton persevered. The genesis of this gallery constitutes a tribute to the resiliency of the 2015 Carolina Panthers in all their undefeated glory. The team has cultivated a culture of winning, of transcendence - and as any artist will tell you, there is no greater subject for the palette and brush than the wonder and mystery of human transcendence. Behold the expressionist death of the Colts. View full article
  30. 58 points
    Objectivity is good. Football fans appreciate objectivity. They especially appreciate it when analyzing football recent football histories: it seems patently unfair when a player's historical (which could mean last season, or ten years ago) or current merit is weighted differently based on factors unrelated to performance, like what team he plays for, how he speaks, or what role he is assigned in popular media by a narrative-driven league. Pretty much everyone agrees that players should be judged objectively. But first let's ask: is there any such thing as objectivity? Can we really objectively analyze a football player's performance? In a brilliant 1980 essay, legendary historian Hayden White outlined the problem with objectivity in even the simplest historical matters. Case in point: the historical annals of, say, Gaul (modern France) in the 8th century AD. Here is a snapshot of the recorded history of Gaul between the years 709-734, as culled from volume one of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica: This seems like a reasonable collection of events to include in a history. Duke Gottfried was a Bavarian duke, so his death seems significant. King Charles slaughtered the Saxons and then won at the battle of Poitiers - great, all good stuff. But a closer examination begs some questions. Why was the Battle of Tours in 732 left out when it was so much more consequential? Why is "Saturday" mentioned with as much gravity as the battle itself? Why is "great crops" weighted the same as Theudo's victory at Aquitaine? What the hell happened in 726, 728, 729, and 730? Were they all on vacation? Whatever the answer, the inclusion of seemingly nominal events like a bad crop year and that silly flood in 712 is actually the most revealing of all: those events are included in a history because they bear immediate importance to the writer. The writer's supposedly objective history is actually completely subjective because he is a prisoner of his time and his situation. His very survival depends on crops not being bad, so for that reason alone it's worth a mention. And a little historical digging reveals that Duke Gottfried donated his castle to the writer's patron when he died; suddenly the good duke's inclusion as a historical figure looks financially motivated, not historically accurate. Therefore this history is not the history of Gaul, but rather a history framed by the annalist's own biological and economic necessities. A new history of Gaul in the same period might look much different. Got that? Good. Histories aren't objective because the selection of facts is framed by the worldview of the historian selecting them. And this brings us to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. "CAN SOMEONE PLEASE DIG UP DUKE GOTTFRIED AND START HIM AT LEFT GUARD" If there was ever a case for declaring "objective" football history as truly subjective, it's Andrew Luck. Hayden White argues that narratives fill the gaps in bullet-pointed annals and integrate them into some kind of story with greater meaning; like the annalist of Gaul, sports journalists, national writers, pundits, coaches, and legions of fans have been channeled into a narrative about Andrew Luck. Much like the annalist of Gaul selected an event that supported his ulterior motives and wrote it as objective history, so too can writers select for traits about a football player that fit their narrative. Here is an example: Wow, that Andrew Luck sure is clutch! Three second-half touchdowns last week to lead the league. He's better than Brady! The stats show it and you can't debate them, because correlation equals causation and dammit he just has that drive and lunch pail leadership! I sure like that guy! Of course if you adjust Luck's week seven performance so that it doesn't isolate metrics that highlight his performance, his results are much less exceptional. Keep removing qualifiers like "second half" and Luck's performance drops even further. Add in more complex metrics like "first half interceptions that put your team in a 15+ point hole" and suddenly dragging yourself out of it in garbage time doesn't seem so impressive an accomplishment. This are silly examples, of course, but that's the rub. Those silly examples are exactly what the Andrew Luck narrative has survived on over the past three years: bits and pieces cherry-picked to suit an overarching narrative. Floods and famines, if you will, a history great to certain interested parties but hardly an objective whole that indicates the reality of the situation. Much like the annals of Gaul crumble as a useful narrative upon closer analysis, so too does Andrew Luck's media-driven stature as one of the league's best passers fall apart under intense statistical scrutiny, comparative analysis, and the unforgiving prowess of defensive players who have forced him into cringingly bad throws this season. His defense isn't doing him any favors - they're currently ranked bottom in the league - but part of that's because he's been putting them in bad situations with turnovers. His nine interceptions are tied for third in the league, behind Bradford, Stafford, and Peyton Manning, all of whom are having atrocious years. Andrew Luck is a quarterback with a high ceiling playing very poorly. More significantly than that he is playing much worse than the level automatically granted to him by the league's dominant narrative that Andrew Luck is a football great. No, this year he is worse than marginal: he is legitimately one of the worst quarterbacks on one of the worst teams in the NFL. Last week's game against the New Orleans Saints is a microcosm of his entire season - some would argue his career - so let's take a look at his latest egregious, inexcusable interception to see exactly what's going on. Luck's first interception came at 2:23 in the first quarter. Here the Colts line up with a 3WR 1TE set. The back goes into motion to run a rout at the top of your screen; Luck's primary is the slant run by T.Y. Hilton (circled in yellow.) The Saints appear to be in cover three, with the corners and free safety playing deep zones and the linebackers playing the middle of the field. Stephone Anthony (bracketed in red) is watching for a drag, short slant, or anything up the seam that requires him to go after a receiver - or jump a route. Watch what happens. Luck eyes Hilton's slant the entire way. The linebacker reads Luck's eyes as the route progresses, squatting down in the zone, and as soon as Hilton makes his cut inside the linebacker jumps the route. Hilton tries to adjust and come back to it, but it's too late. Greg Cosell's fantastic analysis has further shown that Luck was throwing for a three-step slant while Hilton was breaking in at five steps. Staring him down only made it worse. Drew Brees and the Saints quickly took advantage, putting a touchdown on the board and beginning what would turn out to be a complete trouncing of the Colts. Later in the half Luck gave the defense a similar gift downfield on a fly route after the two minute warning, staring his receiver the entire way down the field (and ignoring a wide-open man up the seam on the other side.) Result: 20-0 halftime score, in favor of the Saints. By repeatedly making fundamental, JV-squad level errors like staring down his receivers and missing the middle linebacker, Andrew Luck put his team in a position to lose - and, once again, put himself in a position to score garbage-time touchdowns and once again quantifiably corroborate us the kinds of narratives we so neatly derive if we're looking for them. This coming Monday night, the Carolina Panthers have the opportunity to visit a merciless pounding on the Annals of Andrew Luck, utilizing a hard-hitting, quickly-reacting defensive backfield to take advantage of his mistakes. Monday night the Andrew Luck narrative can end on before the eyes of the entire world on national television and Panthers fans, at long last, can put away reflexive defense of their quarterback at the narrative's opposite pole. On Monday night the narrative of Andrew-Luck-as-great-quarterback will go quietly into the dark night. And unlike the Battle of Tours, nobody will be able to narrate the Carolina Panthers out of existence. View full article
  31. 57 points
    much has been made of allegations that cam newton is a father. it's contributed in a significant way to the distraction on this board, and while i doubt it's a distraction to the team, least of all cam personally, it's clear by his touchdown celebration that he's at least heard about it. ever the troll, he never confirmed nor denied, instead just ambiguously rocking the football like babby and walking off the field, keeping charlotte's most gullible with jaws hung low, tongues slack, and TMZ apps refreshing. you can flush all of that down to the toilet. cam doesn't have a baby. my wife is in grad school, in a nurse practitioner program. certified NPs are one step below MDs in terms of professional discretion and opportunity; the only real difference is you can't open up your own practice. through the course of years of training for this, through an internationally prominent university and through extensive clinical programs in various states, she's developed lots of contacts throughout the medical field, enough to tap into for various questions. with this in mind, and without further ado, here is why cam doesn't have a baby: 1) none of the four major hospitals inside the ATL beltway ever registered cam, his girlfriend, or any nuclear family members as patients inside a maternity ward. without violating HIPAA, and without giving away contacts inside the greater metro area health network, i can tell you no child of cam newton's was born in atlanta at any point this month. 2) an extensive search of publicly-accessible birth records returns no results for cam newton's paternity. fulton county's register of deeds updates twice weekly, including mondays. 3) one of my wife's best friends is friends with one of cam's girlfriend's friends. this is umpteen degrees of separation, but the important thing is my wife's best friend sees snapchats featuring cam newton's girlfriend, including plenty over the past six months where she was, in fact, not pregnant. And, perhaps most damning of all: 4) don't ask me how i got it, but i've acquired a screengrab of a snapchat sent by hazel the day after christmas. it's hard to imagine that cam newton's girlfriend is in gastonia. a more logical conclusion is that "gastonian" refers to the top-end spa and resort in savannah, which would explain why she's in a bikini in december. incidentally, savannah is where cam's mother and father live, which would make sense as a christmastime location. note that she is neither pregnant, nursing, nor carrying the transcendent demigod that would be cam newton's child. 5) it's impossible to keep a pregnancy secret in your own circle of friends that nobody cares about, much less the courts of international superstars and roving paparazzi whose monthly commissions are based on their ability to sniff these kinds of things out. if cam newton was a father you'd have heard about it months ago, and it would've been substantiated by more than this photograph, which to date is the basis of the entire thing. pretty lame, huh? so now you can stop wondering. and next time you see some googly-eyed, gargle-mouthed, sweat-browed, dirt-fingered son of a bitch gagging on his own uvula in his hurry to tell you how cam newton has a baby because it was online, slap some goddamn sense into that ass clown and tell him we're moving on to tampa bay. because we are.
  32. 57 points
    This week's installment of Along the Sidelines features a heavy dose of Cam Newton, KK Short, some blood, and a little redemption. Hope You Enjoy! Along the Sidelines - Texans at Panthers View full article
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  35. 56 points
    This year on the Huddle I am introducing a new feature on the Huddle I think you will love. I will be displaying some of my favorite photos from each game along with commentary in "Along the Sidelines" in hi-definition. This method is optimized for HD viewing and retina screens. I hope you enjoy the first installment. Along the Sidelines - Dolphins at Panthers View full article
  36. 56 points
    It is about to get a little sappy on the Huddle. If that bothers you, click away now.... While there is much media coverage of some of the more negative things that happen in any given year to any given team, very little attention is sometimes paid to the more understated positivity that becomes the foundation for a team's identity. Its character. After Friday night's practice, spectators got a glimpse of what is the real heart of this Panthers team and what makes a veteran player one that is respected both on and off the field. You know, I can't really relate to these guys in most areas. I am not particularly athletic or competitive. But after practice on Friday night I found myself relating to the Panthers players in a new way. A much more important way, in fact. I related to them (and I assume many onlookers did as well) as a parent, not just a player. After the whistle had blown and the helmets came off, the men in black and blue were just dads. Dads on a football field seeking autographs for their kids. Can you relate? Greg Olsen and Ryan Kalil made sure the gang got some attention from Cam Newton, who thoroughly enjoyed the exchange. I imagine Cam's Captain America shirt may have meant more to the kids at that age. None the less, lasting memories made. Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly happily signed for the kiddos as well. Luke added a high five for good measure. Greg Olsen was sure to introduce his son to Panthers rookie Shaq Thompson. Olsen made sure to instruct him on how to make a proper and courteous introduction, as all good fathers do. A practice I have made countless times with my own twin boys. Again, commonalities and relating to the person, not just the player. After the fanfare and before signing countless more autographs (how these guys have the energy for so many fans and autographs after practice I will never know), Thomas Davis managed some one on one time with his daughter who reveled in the opportunity. And that, my friends, is an example of the underlying foundation of this entire team. View full article
  37. 56 points
    Today I had the opportunity to get a look at the newest Panthers wide receiver, second rounder Devin Funchess, at Panthers rookie camp. Devin strolled into his first practice as a NFL player like he had been there before, having some fun with NC State guard Zach Allen. Lots of comparisons will be made between Kelvin Benjamin and Funchess this season, but right away it was clear to me these are two completely different receivers. Funchess is much more fluid in his movements, relies less on his height to achieve his objective. He runs more like smaller slot receiver. There were no team drills today, so my observations are limited to positional drills. I can tell you that Funchess caught every catchable ball that came his way, sometimes in athletic fashion. (More about that in All-Pro). His eyes in all of my shots of him are clearly fixated on the ball, a skill that other more experienced players on the roster still have trouble with. Overall, and yes I know this is early, I can definitely see Funchess as the opening day #2 receiver. But you know what? Here is the shocker.... I could see him as an eventual number one as well with Kelvin Benjamin being the second receiver. Funchess looks every bit as good at this rookie camp as Kelvin did last year at his. There is still a long way to go, but this initial look was very encouraging. View full article
  38. 55 points
    Each week I bring to you a slideshow of my best photos from the game. This week, highlights from the Carolina Panthers win over the Indianapolis Colts. If you enjoy, please spread the word on your Social Media by linking the slideshow. We rely on folks like you to keep this joint running. Without further ado.... Along the Sidelines - Colts at Panthers View full article
  39. 55 points
    Sorry Gettleman doubters, this year's draft has been pretty genius. The NFL gives him 9 draft picks, but thanks to last year he really doesn't need that many. Solution? Turn the 9 picks into 5 picks and target your guys. Address areas of need (WR, Tackle) but also draft a guy that will change the entire defense for you in Shaq. And he STILL has 2 fifth rounders to select. It is like watching Michelangelo in very high coaching shorts paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
  40. 54 points
    Fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap This trade has made me a happy man ;) excuse me while I get back to business. Fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap fap
  41. 54 points
  42. 53 points
  43. 53 points
    Each week I bring to you what fans of the opposition are saying about the game. This week, Denver Bronco fans discuss the Carolina Panthers. On why the Broncos will win... Six reasons here, not one of them has to do with football. The past, emotion, destiny, etc. If you do your best to come up with six reasons to win and none of them have to do with the skill of the players or the efficiency of scoring points... it won't be a good time for you. On Josh Norman Josh Norman has shut down receivers twice as good as anyone on the Denver roster all season long. I am not sure he is someone you want to throw shade at. He tends to get a bit worked up. On the Panthers run game... Denver has not played a running QB all season, unless you count Andrew Luck. In addition, the Panthers have better rushing games against 3-4 defenses as they have a power run game. Fewer really large men on defense is to the benefit of the Panthers. Denver should be very, very worried about the run game. If the Panthers can run the ball, the game is all but over. Not battle tested? This is the third straight year the Panthers are in the playoffs. Also, they had to defeat two teams that are better than the Broncos to get to this point in the postseason. Yeah, you do that. Rodgers is a pretty athletic guy and runs well to buy time, but Cam will gash you for 30 yards up the middle if you just try to contain the edges. Here is the bottom line, and all you really need to know. The Denver defense is built to defeat the New England Patriots, and it worked. They have a lot of speed to keep up with the Tom Brady passing attack. The problem is, they are not at all built to play against a big, physical team. The Panthers offense isn't the highest scoring offense in the league due to finesse. They put a helmet on a helmet and physically punish you methodically. Basically the opposite of New England's arena ball offense. This won't be a close game, folks. View full article
  44. 53 points
    lol... nice CAMouflage He slipped out of there like a CAMeleon Stop me if you've heard any of these.
  45. 52 points
  46. 52 points
    "If we can only beat the Panthers, then we can turn our season around" - Saints fan, Dec 2nd, 2015 "If we can only beat the Panthers, then we can turn our season around" - Cowboys fan, Nov 23rd, 2015 "If we can only beat the Panthers, then we can turn our season around" - Redskins fan, Nov 19th, 2015 "If we can only beat the Panthers, then we can turn our season around" - Titans fan, Nov 12th, 2015 "If we can only beat the Panthers, then we most likely get the #1 seed in the NFC" - Packers fan, Nov 5th, 2015 "If we can only beat the Panthers, then we can turn our season around" - Colts fan, Oct 30th, 2015 "If we can only beat the Panthers, then we can turn our season around" - Eagles fan, Oct 22nd, 2015 Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera....
  47. 51 points
    Jared Allen made his Carolina Panthers practice debut today and was welcomed by the heat and humidity the south offers in September. Ron Rivera spent a good amount of time watching his new acquisition, and I have a feeling he was pretty impressed. Allen is a physical specimen, that much is clear. He should immediately have an impact for the Panthers this Sunday against the Bucs. What I was not expecting was how quickly Allen seems to have taken up the leadership and mentor role left vacant by Charles Johnson (now on IR). Allen was especially talkative and demonstrative with both Mario Addison and Wes Horton. Throughout practice, Allen would stop and chat or demonstrate a move of the hips or perhaps a hand movement. The little things that can turn an average defensive end into a good one. After the media portion of practice, the Panthers defensive coaching staff seemed more than pleased with their new weapon. View full article
  48. 51 points
  49. 49 points
  50. 49 points
    Bet he dropped his bowl


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