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Sunday, August 19, 2012

V/S Dolphins - Preseason Aftermath

Victory!  prior to the game I wanted to set some rational objectives to suggest a real victory, regardless of the scoreboard in some situations.  Here's what I wanted to see at least 3 of:

*A win (check)
*A halftime lead (check)
*three defensive turnovers (only one)
*a breakout player (not really)
*no injuries (check)

They definitely hit hard on the first two, and luckily/most imporantly, no injuries. 

The 17-0 first quarter lead was fantastic, and set into a 20-3 first half lead.  Carolina held on for a 23-17 win.  

The first quarter set up with an initial drive by Carolina, starting at its own 16, with a 15 yard Deangelo Williams run up the middle, a quick hitter by Jonathan Stewart for 4, then a playaction strike up the right sideline to Greg Olsen for 27.  Bang, bang, and then the big play.  Get used to that, and it's certainly more interesting than the old "three clouds of dust and a yard" John Fox run-run-pass.  See, there are various ways to do things, and this is just better.  Unfortunately, a good screen to Williams was brought partially back by a Brandon LaFell hold, and Carolina couldn't pick up an odd 1st and 2 from the Miami 31, where Justin Medlock kicked from 49.   

Other highlights from the drive: a miscommunication from the center of the line had Ryan Kalil passing off Randy Starks to no one , so Cam Newton took a hard hit on the Olsen pass. I almost pinned it on rook Amini Silatolu, but it was passed to the right from Kalil. 

Carolina defense, including a batted ball from Charles Johnson, held the Dolphins to a long 3 and out (the 1st down, a 1 yard run, was nullified by a Greg Hardy offsides; Miami couldn't pick up 2nd and 2 or 3rd and 2 after a 3 yard Reggie Bush run).  Receiving the ball at their 34, Carolina came out throwing, with an incomplete deep shot to Steve Smith that would ignite a battle with Vontae Davis; after a 2nd incompletion, Newton hit Brandon LaFell for 25; two plays later, a Williams run turned into Carolina's favor as Davis was hit for a personal foul retaliating on Smith for a hard block; the block took Davis out of his shoe and his helmet; Smith also realistically took his dignity, and fifteen yards.    Next play, Newton hit backup TE Ben Hartsock on a laser for 18 yards; down to the 1, two plays later Stewart would leap in for the score. 

Another 3 and out for Miami left Carolina with the ball at the 20; a skinny post to Smith went for 15; a five yard Williams run and a 6 yard out to Olsen picked up another first down; a big pass interference on the Dolphins' Shaun Smith left the ball at the Miami 10, and Williams dove in for the 9 yard score two plays later on a short screen.  

If Carolina can play that well all year, it'll be a long, productive year, but Miami's not the team Houston was.  Now with a 17 point deficit, Miami abandoned any sort of gameplan and went no-huddle, and often shotgun, much of the remaining game, and now Cam Newton and most of the starters were out. 

The remaining game was done with backups, the most notable things being the bullish Mike Tolbert knocking over Miami's Chris Clemons, and then fumbling onto him; and the game-ending INT that was pulled in by RJ Stanford. 

A few impressions on the game:
*Newton was very sharp. 8/11, with incompletions only on a deep ball to Smith, and two screen balls that didn't connect (the timing looked off on both, but otherwise it wasn't repeatable). 

*Derek Anderson was less sharp than last week, but made some plays. Highlights included a great end-around to Louis Murphy (31 yards), a quick slant to Kealoha Pilares right before the half for 32 that set up a FG; 

*backs were excellent, minus the fumble, before the backups.  

*TEs were good, as each of Olsen/Barnidge/Hartsock brought in 15+ yard passes. 

*Line play was OK, minus the early hit on Newton and the Silatolu miss on a run play that got Williams hit hard; the backups started to be poor and Jeff Byars is on his way out at backup C.  Byron Bell wasn't noticeable, which I'll take in any game.

*The defense overall held early.  It did help that Miami threw so much, and didn't run; it gave the defense the ability to pin it back and take their shots. 
But, with that said, they did hold the run well, too.  Charles Johnson looked like a star out there, easing any worries about last season's bad back or the offseason's knee surgery.  Backups Frank Alexander and Thomas Keiser grabbed both sacks and pressure; 

*Josh Norman had his debut - I thought it was interesting he played RCB, and Chris Gamble moved to LCB, for nickel.  Only other time in recent memory I remember that, was when Gamble was coming off the bench in 2010 (despite playing as good of ball as he ever has).  Norman was not called for PI, nor targeted, outside of a screen to Davone Bess that got 0 yards.  The other two CB played far off their men, and Gamble did give up a couple of INT dropped deep into his zone.  Expect more man-technique cover 3 than what he was doing out there, so I was not concerned Gamble was targeted. 

*Not much movement in the S argument - Martin and Nakamura were both good, but unspectacular; Reggie Smith wasn't heard from until later. 

*LBs had another solid night, with Luke Kuechly getting turned around on a 3rd and long completion but otherwise doing allright in all phases; Jason Phillips looks, again, like a solid 2-down backup ILB; Jordan Senn was active as a reserve again.  I can't wait to see Jon Beason back on the field. 

*Special Teams was much improved, not giving up much in coverage, and tackling better.  Sherrod Martin continues to be a force on coverage units now that he has to fight for a job.  

*Armanti Edwards had a good punt return nullified; still, he has no realistic shot at the job.  I did see Edwards as a gunner on one punt, and he got creamed.  

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