The Carolina Panthers were wary coming into their matchup against the Rams, trying their best to be humble after a big win against the Vikings and doing their best not to repeat the mistakes that followed the Giants win. The Panthers responded this week by winning a slugfest heavily adorned with trash-talking, high tempers and personal fouls.
And while the Panthers did give in to the emotion to a degree and committed a few avoidable mistakes, they fought past the banter and bullying to pull out a well-deserved win, one they can build on and hopefully use as a bridge towards the playoffs.
Reid-ing the Book
Carolina was in a bad spot when the season started, losing two close games and starting 0-2. But, they’ve turned it around by following the example of another team that once in a tight spot. The Kansas City Chiefs have gone from 2-14 to 7-0 all by trusting the tried and true method of a swarming defense combined with a run-based possession offense.
The Panthers have been trying to fit that mold all season, and they have all the ingredients to do so. They couldn’t execute until Cam Newton learned how to be a game manager, however. Newton has become ultra-efficient over the past two weeks, primarily because of his patience and decision-making, which has limited turnovers and has led to a number of long, decimating drives.
Keeping Their Cool
The air has been cooling down in a Carolina as the fall descends on the Northern Hemisphere, but heat was palpable at Bank of America Stadium. Both teams were participating in extensive amounts of trash talk, including some personal shots from Janoris Jenkins to Steve Smith, but the Panthers took advantage of the turmoil, instead of being sucked into hurricane.
Jenkins tried to get to Smith, but Smith was having none of it, scoring a touchdown in the young man’s face. Aside from an inexcusable penalty by Mike Tolbert in the red zone, the Panthers avoided mental mistakes and executed their game plan, while Rams crumbled and gave away yards.
It’s Always Something
The Panthers played well on Sunday, but they were not without blemishes. If the Panthers want to play like the Chiefs, then a strong run game is essential; and no matter how a good the running back is, the run game can’t flourish without a strong offensive line.
The line kept Newton upright for the most part, but they continuously lost one-one-one battles up front and failed to get their hands on the linebackers, which led to losses on early downs and pressure-laden third-and-longs. I had thought that Ryan Kalil and the rest of the line would excel, but it was Kalil himself that got bullied on the safety, getting tossed to the side and allowing the defense to collapse on Tolbert.
The line will need to play much better for the Panthers to succeed, which they are more than capable of doing.