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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pro Bowlers

Julius Peppers and Deangelo Williams were named to the 2010 Pro Bowl, the AP reports.

Peppers' is his 5th, and second consecutive. Williams made it in this year apparently as a payback for last year - he's within the top ten backs but his 7 TDs and recent injury take a backseat to 2008's 1500 yard, 20 TD performance.

Most notably was a lack of Jon Beason on the roster, with Jon Vilma and Patrick Willis taking the two spots. Beason is a second alternate, along with Steve Smith and C Ryan Kalil. It's Kalil's first Pro Bowl mention; Beason was a Pro Bowler last year, Smith was a four time Pro Bowler as recently as 08.

Jordan Gross didn't make it either - he'd struggled before going out with the injury. Travelle Wharton, who many thought should've made it as a guard last year, was harmed by the move back out to tackle; Kalil has been the best NFC center down the stretch but was harmed by the early season struggles at Philadelphia.

There's also no doubt based on how he started the season, that Thomas Davis would've finished the season with a Pro Bowl bid had he stayed healthy. Davis is still the Panthers' 2nd leading tackler despite missing more than half the team's games. He had a good shot in a weak NFC year for OLB - Demarcus Ware always gets in, but his 11 sacks were actually low for him (and he didn't come on until near the end of voting), Lance Briggs got in on reputation only, and backup is Brian Orakpo, a rookie who got in on only sack count.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fox Announcement

The leaked announcement that John Fox and Marty Hurney will stay is as much a statement that there won't be a Bill Cowher type move as much as it is a sign of continuing with Fox.

Make no mistake, Fox is better than most options. Concerns of consecutive winning seasons are real, but overblown; his teams win. You don't get almost 20 games over .500 by just skating by.

But were the team to have not kept Fox, make no mistake. They wouldn't chase a huge money guy like Cowher. That'll command an eight figure salary, something the Panthers won't do. They'd more likely go get a lower salary coach who's deserving, than spend huge on a new coach while paying the old one.

And, were they to change to a younger coach, they'd have been unlikely to undergo radical change (a 3-4, for instance) to get a coach similar to Fox, and that coach would've been similar to Fox undoubtedly.

Media reports suggest that Marty Hurney was never really at risk of losing his job, though most fans suggested otherwise. I never saw him going (or being a package deal with Fox), at most I'd have expected him to become a VP/Football Operations and hiring a GM with pro personnel experience (an idea I suggested before 2008), which would give a similar situation now but with more beef in the scouting department.

In the end the team's biggest mistakes made (the Peppers contract fiasco, Delhomme's contract/non-benching) were both as likely made from the top as anything.

Giants Postgame

Carolina outright dominated New York (to my happy astonishment, given my pregame worries) in one of the worst defeats in Meadowlands history, and one of the biggest wins in Carolina history from a point perspective.

Jonathan Stewart led the way, breaking the single game rushing record and becoming the first back in franchise history to go over 200 yards in a game. It was the first 200 yard rushing game against the Giants since 1978, and it put Stewart over 1000 yards - giving Carolina two 1000 yard backs. With another 100 yards, Carolina would be the first team with two 1100 yard rushers.

Matt Moore had his second straight 3 TD/0 INT game. He led Carolina to 10/15 on third down, a fantastic mark no matter the opponent.

Steve Smith caught a brilliant touchdown, taking the last few yards with a broken arm, bouncing off a defender and scoring before heading to the locker room. Jeff King had to go to the carpet to pull down his touchdown.

Brad Hoover turned in a solid performance, getting a rushing touchdown at the goal line and getting 9 carries/42 yards total while he lined up behind rookie Tony Fiammetta, his eventual replacement. Mike Goodson, the backup this game, fared somewhat well in the passing game but struggled to push the pile running, and eventually gave way to Hoover.

The defense played lights out: Julius Peppers and Jon Beason had dominant performances, and the defense overall pulled down four sacks, 3 INT, 2 FF, and ten s behind the line of scrimmage.

Carolina played as a team posessed in their second game since being eliminated from playoff contention. While New York would've scored first points (a Steve Smith the Younger TD brought back by obvious holding), they never seriously contended after that. Even late the Giants had major miscues - a missed extra point, a 4th down and goal touchdown dropped by Madison Hedgecock - but no mistakes can be made, this win was as much Carolina dominance as Giants ineptitude. Spoiling the Giants' stadium farewell and playoff hopes made for a sweet trophy at the end, and thoroughly dismantling a team with a better record was a nice accomplishment as well.

Carolina has quietly put together a hot four games - three wins and a loss to NE that should've been a win. They've rallied under Moore and behind John Fox, for a strong late season finish that many would be disastrous as the teamwent down the stretch.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


A few scattered thoughts before the Giants game - Merry Christmas everyone. What a fantastic win last week, though despite the time off I haven't had much to put in on it. So much to say, and not much time to add.

Coming off the big win against Minnesota, I don't see a lot of hope in New York.

New York gashed us against the run last year, especially from 3 WR, and while Carolina has done a great job of playing in nickel and dime lately, teams haven't run on them from the dime. In the end, that's what got us last year (spread, shotgun, then draw), and I don't think our 3-2-6 will suddenly be any bigger against a very large Giants team.

I'd expect we do a solid job against their receivers, and against their base O to a point (maybe less run success than last week), but Manning is still very accurate.

Their defense has been susceptible, and you can count on a solid Steve Smith game, jacked up on the idea of proving who the real Steve Smith is. I'm hoping for a big day with the TEs. And Jonathan Stewart has to come up big again (actually, Mike Goodson's the one who has to come up big - Stewart takes care of his).

also, seems like we just happen to get New York in New York again, next to last game of the year again. A lot less on the line this time, but I'm expecting a similar result. I just don't know we can do this great of a job a second game in a row against a top team. Then again I felt doubtful last week, and got a nice surprise.

As an aside on John Fox, Marty Hurney, Julius Peppers, Jake Delhomme, Dwayne Jarrett, any Panther who fans or media have determined to seal fates on: we've got two more games left. They might be meaningless to you, but you expect them to play to the whistle, play to the last snap, so maybe we wait until the year's over to make wish-lists that won't happen or fire people you have no authority to fire.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

V/S Buccaneers, 12/6/09

Matt Moore with the win, Josh Freeman with the loss.

Freeman mattered more, with his five turnovers. Freeman easily would've been sacked at least 5 times as well (Carolina got to him twice) if he wasn't so freaking large and oddly mobile.

At any rate, Jon Beason picked two balls off in the redzone, followed by another from Chris Harris; Charles Godfrey had one early, Chris Gamble had one late. The sacks were from Peppers working inside (he was very effective there) and Nick Hayden (first career). Damione Lewis had good pressure inside as well, and a number of blitzes worked well (they did a good job of working Chris Harris into the box, and then on the weakside; they also worked James Anderson out there. What they'd do is rotate Peppers down, and put the blitzer outside - it forces you to either change your scheme for Peppers inside, which might not account for everyone, or have someone switch, leaving the blitzer).

Godfrey started at FS - not sure if that was the plan, or if Sherrod Martin was just too shaken up on the kickoff to play.

On offense, new starters Moore and Jonathan Stewart (Moore's 4th start; Stewart's first) led the team, Stewart getting a career high in carries (26 for 120, TD) and Moore being an efficient 14/20 for 161 and an INT (forced ball into Dante Rosario), and new 2nd back Tyrell Sutton clipped in 38 yards on 6 carries.

Moore hit Steve Smith on a 66 yard bomb, which led to a FG, Smith finishing with 78 yards on 3 catches. Muhsin Muhammad had 4 for 44. The passing game didn't always show as efficient as the stats suggested, with every drive after the first two in the first half stalling. Carolina held at 10 points and slowly watched TB pull six on the board, which could've easily been more if Carolina hadn't forced turnovers.

Line play was solid, giving up only one sack (there was also a somewhat botched play on a screen). Geoff Schwartz got playing time for the first time - he played at tight end on the Stewart TD and returned a kickoff (16 yards and injured TB's return man, Clifton Smith, when Smith tried to tackle him).

John Kasay went over 400 FGs on his career, and he's soundly in 7th place all-time. Fantastic work, John.

So, Moore started. It was refreshing to have a new starter - a bittersweet statement given that this team runs on Jake Delhomme and that it's a shame to have to be refreshed that he wasn't in. Moore had a lot of control on his passes, and what he lacks in experience or better judgement, he gets back in balls. Just as Delhomme wasn't the only problem, Moore isn't the only thing they needed as a solution, so hopefully the playcalling will be less conservative and more varied against suddenly-embattled New England.

At best, it's time to play spoiler. The way they played against Tampa Bay, spoiler is a lot to ask, too. But that's why they play the games. Hopefully, Deangelo Williams will be ready to play next week, Moore's confidence will be even higher, and the Pats won't be too sore about that one point loss this week.

As for Tampa? Thanks for the two wins, Tampa. Having five wins right now looks a lot better than three. You were a big reason we can now say we are somehow 3-2 in the division, Tampa. I don't know what Raheem Morris is doing out there - firing two coordinators, and on his third QB already. For Carolina's sake, I hope Tampa holds onto Morris for a few years. Maybe he'll redeem by hiring a new pair of guys in the offseason and building, but that team looks in disarray. It fights, it seems somewhat prepared, but I can't believe this team was 9-3 at this point last year (then again, same for Carolina).

Tampa today

And so starts the Matt Moore era, amongst baseless accusations to whether or not Jake Delhomme's finger is hurt.

As of this morning, it's hard to say who else might actually play. Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams are both on the injury list, Delhomme is out. Muhsin Muhammad is back on it again, and Dwayne Jarrett is gimpy. So they'll have to balance where to put Tyrell Sutton, Mike Goodson, Charly Martin, and Kenny Moore. To compound, Brad Hoover is struggling again this week. Might actually even be smartest to go without a fullback today and just prepare for the tight ends to play the role, get Hoover healthy and have room for the extra depth at WR and RB we seem to need so much lately.

Tampa's only won a single game, but we often play like we've won one game. We have to rally with the young guy, and hope he's going to be good enough to stave off hopelessness for a while.