The Opening Has a Great Ending!

Let the doubters doubt.  Let the rest of the league talk about any team except the Carolina Panthers.  We all know that’s going to happen since everyone is so busy being up Brett Favre’s rear end.

All of them can keep it up since today, two questions were answered.

First, the San Diego Chargers may again be pretenders rather than contenders for the crown.  This week, San Diego coach Norv Turner told Fox’s Brian Baldinger, “Our 45 are better than the Panthers 45.”

Really?

Second, the Carolina Panthers are back.

We heard all the talk for months about Jake Delhomme’s elbow, DeAngelo Williams isn’t a starting running back, the Panthers can’t win and won’t beat the Chargers (even I made a prediction on the podcast in favor of San Diego), the rebuilt defense won’t be able to stop anybody, John Fox is on the hot seat, blah, blah, blah.

Let’s just go ahead and mail this one in before the season begins, shall we?  There’s no reason to play the games, is there?  Let’s mail the trophy to New England or Dallas now.

Stop the presses.  Tom Brady is hurt.

Get this – tonight, Peter King used these words – the injury to Tom Brady has “cast a pall over the National Football League.”  Give us all a break!  Is there football played anywhere outside of Massachusetts?

There is and some of it was played in San Diego late Sunday afternoon.

We learned a few things today.  Let’s start with Jake’s elbow.  Not a bad stat line – 23/41, 247, 1 TD.  He directed the offense like only the Cajun can.  His passes were crisp and he put his receivers in position to make plays and he did it all without Steve Smith.

The running game.  That offensive line that had been rebuilt during the offseason looked dominant.  (We are still awaiting official word on Jeff Otah.)  DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart appeared to be an unstoppable duo capable of carrying the offense any time they are asked to.  Williams – 18 carries, 86 yards, Stewart – 10 carries, 53 yards.  In all, the Panthers put up 142 yards rushing.

Defense.  Ladainian Tomlinson was able to gain 97 yards on the ground, yes.  Philip Rivers had 3 passing TD’s but was held to 217 yards passing.  Carolina was credited with only one sack on the day.  The defense will have to improve but they held when they had to and playing on the road against one of the best team’s in the league is a huge test.  All in all, they passed.

Make no mistake about it.  This is a signature victory against a quality opponent on their home field.

What a scene.  2:21 remaining in the game, Panthers trailing 24-19.  First, a 7-yard pass to DJ Hackett followed by a 14-yard pass to Muhsin Muhammad.  Now, the two-minute warning.

An incomplete pass was followed by a 3-yard completion to Hackett and an 11-yard pass to Dante Rosario.  The ball was suddenly at the Chargers 34 with 58 seconds remaining.  There was one timeout remaining.  An imcompletion was followed up with an 11-yarder to Dwayne Jarrett and Carolina had a first down at the 23 with only 31 seconds to go.

This is where Jake should probably have spiked it but he didn’t.  With the clock ticking, he lined up his team and attempted a pass that went incomplete to Hackett in the back of the endzone.  Now, only six seconds remained.

It was time for the veterans to take over.  A short completion to Moose at the 14 yard line came next.  Moose called timeout as he went to the ground leaving 2 seconds to play.  The scene was set for heroics.

Time for one play.  Jake took the snap, slid to his right, pump faked and then threw a laser to Dante Rosario in the back of the end zone setting off a celebration by the Panthers players and coaches on the Chargers field.

The doubters can doubt all they want.  After this win, the players and the coaches can believe and so can the fans.  Something special is about to happen in Carolina.  We will all be witnesses to it.  The doubters can all stay in Foxboro.

Of course, I was keeping notes.  It’s my job.  It’s what I do.  Here are some of the random thoughts I had during this game.

  • Hackett looked pretty darned good having had no time on the field in the preseason (5 catches, 48 yards)
  • Mark Jones wasn’t too shabby on punt returns until his muff in the second half that was recovered by his teammates in the endzone for a touchback
  • Carolina dominated the entire first half with two long drives but came away with only 6 points.  This included one fourth and goal play at the one yard line on which a pass bounced off Brad Hoover’s hands at the goal line.
  • Jeff Otah went out of the game with 34 seconds left in the first quarter.  Jeremy Bridges took his place for the remainder of the game at right tackle.  Originally, the reports are the Otah has a left knee sprain.
  • Brian Baldinger must be replaced by someone, anyone who has a brain.
  • John Kasay is still THE MAN!
  • Damione Lewis looked very good at times today shooting the gaps against the run.
  • Dante Rosario might be the hero of the day.  Besides making the catch at the end of the game, he had 7 catches, 96 yards and the touchdown.  This kid is a star in the making.
  • Fox can send that stupid robot to the same place they banish Brian Baldinger.
  • Shawne Merriman left the game with his defensive teammates facing the Panthers offense inside of 2:00 to go in the first half.
  • Chris Harris made one of the best plays of the day by stripping the ball from Antonio Gates.  The forced fumble was returned by Chris Gamble for a touchdown.
  • Travelle Wharton left the game and was replaced by Geoff Hangartner at guard.
  • I still say and will always say that the fumble call in the fourth quarter on Hackett was not and will never be a fumble!
  • I have never heard of a defensive tackle being called for holding on a running play.  Before today when Damione Lewis was called for it to help setup the Chargers go-ahead TD.
  • After the game, Fox put up a graphic with the statistical leaders.  They seemed to believe that a guy named Rasario Dawson plays for Carolina.  Who?

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Tags: Carolina Panthers Dante Rosario Jake Delhomme John Fox San Diego Chargers

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