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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

V/s Buffalo - Week 2 - Newfound Forms of Heartbreak

It's getting tougher and tougher to follow this team.

Now 0-2, losing by a total of six points in the year, Carolina found a
way to forfeit another win, this time literally in the last seconds.

Carolina punched the ball deeper, and ran more unique plays, on the way
to a better offensive performance. Cam Newton had his struggles - the
traditionally very accurate deep arm not connecting that often, leaving
Carolina with a lot more offensive failures. Newton had his moments -
he was a perfect 7/7 and a TD to Greg Olsen, along with a pretty pass to
Ted Ginn for another TD - and had some nice plays on the run, but threw
a costly pick in the red zone and was under pressure a good deal by
Mario Williams (whose 4.5 sacks were partially inflated by a late play
with Newton stepping out of bounds, again in the redzone).

It was a less conservative offense, though it still failed in its
conserativity - this time mostly at the hands of Ron Rivera. A late 4th
and 1 with 1:48 left, setup by a third down and mid draw by Mike
Tolbert, would've iced the game had it been converted; the team has one
of the best 4th and short QBs and a dynamite short yardage guy in
Tolbert, but the team kicked. Did the three points they received allow
the team protection against Buffalo getting a quick FG to tie?
Absolutely. But the risk is worth the reward.

As well, had Carolina pulled more TDs than FGs in the redzone, Carolina
wins walking away. The late drive wasn't the only time that Carolina
came up conservative and ended up with a FG, it was simply the most
critical time that strategy failed.

The defense had its moments before allowing an 80 yard drive for a TD
to lose; Star Lotulelei had another impressive game, which helped mask
the rare lack of production from the ends. Liberal subbing and quick
passing are going to cause less production, but better pressure is a
must - especially with a young QB, especially with the resources put
into it.

Injuries might hurt more than the loss - Josh Thomas' concussion
probably keeps him out against NY, Charles Godfrey's achilles puts him
out for the year. Quintin Mikell is iffy to play, but I'd not count on
him. Late in the game, Carolina had Mike Mitchell and Colin Jones
playing safety, and when Josh Norman got hurt replacing Josh Thomas, at
the least he was able to come back in when DJ Moore got hurt replacing

So there aren't a lot of DB options left, on a team that was massively
underpowered there anyway.

Carolina snatched defeat once again from the jaws of victory. I'm not
much on defeatism, or giving up. But the chances of 2013 being a
successful season have significantly declined. There's minimal hope at
this moment - it'd take .500 ball to get the team to its usual mediocre
7-9. It's not a rebuilding season, so there aren't good excuses (it's
fair to say that next year, however, will be yet another rebuilding

From here on some of my focus will be on forecasting those changes. I
will remain dilligent on discussing the team at hand, even as the
current product on the field becomes less relevant. But it's obvious
that 2014 will be a focus as well. It's been many years now - 1700+
days - since Carolina has been at or over .500. Not even whether they
had a winning season, just whether they had as many wins as losses.
That's not good enough. I've never felt like the fanbase's
expectations of consecutive winning seasons or dynasty-level performance
were realistic, but it's realistic to expect the team to not mirror the
struggles of Oakland or Jacksonville. This team is simply better than
that. And the product is often enough to win, without the last minute
push to actually get there.
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