Talking Points: Joy in Pantherville
Posted September 23, 2013
1. Assessing the early returns in the first four weeks of the NFL season can be tricky business. Win convincingly and optimism abounds. Lose and it's time to blow it all up.
Remember when Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles revolutionized football in opening week? Are we supposed to believe Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers forgot how to play? And hold up, aren't the Cleveland Browns supposed to be tanking after trading Trent Richardson to Indianapolis?
Oh, sure. Certain strengths and weaknesses have emerged for every franchise. Washington's defense will be their undoing even after Robert Griffin III feels completely comfortable with his knee. The Pittsburgh Steelers are deteriorating in real-time. But it's important for everyone to take a deep breath before making bold proclamations.
Which gets us to Carolina's 38-0 beatdown of New York.
Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer posited it could be time to re-calibrate what is possible for the Panthers. Heading into a bye-week high on their own supply, Carolina now looks at October as their time to make mid-season run. Contests against against Arizona (1-2), Minnesota (0-3), St. Louis (1-2) and Tampa Bay (0-3) are certainly winnable.
However, a good chunk of what we saw Sunday had plenty to do with just how atrocious New York has been to start the year. They can't stop coughing up the ball and can't cover their assignments in the secondary. The Giants also left Eli Manning exposed as Carolina tied a franchise record of seven sacks. It kept New York from attacking their own weakened secondary.
It was nice to see the Panthers take care of business for a change, but let's wait and see where Carolina goes from here. It could be the moment where the team finally clicked or the lowest point of what is shaping up to be a terrible season for New York.
2. The Panthers did crystallize one aspect of their season with the win. Ron Rivera's job for the rest of the season.
Heading into Sunday, plenty of folks were pulling the "we're not saying, just saying" line on Rivera's future following a loss. Conventional wisdom was an embarrassing loss would leave Panthers' owner Jerry Richardson no choice but to hit the eject button on the head coach and elevate a coordinator on an interim basis.
Blowouts in your favor tend to change the narrative.
According to Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer, Rivera should be good for the rest of the season. After that? Depends on what the final record.
For Rivera's sake, let's hope the aggressive play-calls stay in Mike Shula's rotation.
Along with the designed runs, Cam Newton threw for 223 yards and tossed touchdown passes to Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. He looked in rhythm and showed why it's better to actually use him as the dynamic quarterback he's capable of being at this level. Newton only had one real mistake when he threw an interception.
And what was that, they actually go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal? And one of their strengths as a short yardage team actually paid off? Well I'll be.
3. No moral victories for the Tar Heels, but there were positives to take from their loss at Georgia Tech.
North Carolina's defense, which was torched last season by the Yellow Jackets and has been shaky to start this year, put them in a position to win in Atlanta. Unfortunately, the Tar Heels are still figuring out life after Gio Bernard left for the NFL.
Some of that has to do with the way Paul Johnson loves to suck clock and play keep away with opposing teams. The Tar Heels also opened up the year against South Carolina and their stout defense. But even against Middle Tennessee State, North Carolina has only shown flashes of the big play ability we saw from them last season.
The Tar Heels can still figure it out despite being 1-2, but their offense needs to get going if they still want to make a run at the Coastal.
4. Not saying Duke can't make a bowl game, but their shootout loss to Pittsburgh will give everyone serious reservations about the possibility. The Blue Devils defense is a work in progress and the lack of Anthony Boone couldn't have come at a worse time.