Last week, the Carolina Panthers were a surprise team that shocked many with a big win over San Diego. Starting like that made many of us feel as if a win over Chicago was a given. Not so fast.
For thirty minutes on Sunday, the Panthers looked like a team not only out of synch but also a team that would be having trouble winning more than 5 or 6 games.
Penalties and sloppy play dominated the first half and Chicago was happy to take advantage.
Jake Delhomme struggled while the Bears defense looked dominant. The running game was hardly a factor.
What was worse were the mental mistakes. Jeff King had two false starts, Jeff Otah had one, Dante Rosario had one, Jordan Gross had one. Throw in two illegal formation penalties and you had what appeared to be a bunch of guys simply not ready to play. Keep in mind this was all in one half!
It was compounded early on when Carolina’s Jason Baker had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown putting the Panthers in a 7-0 hole.
Amazingly, the team was only down 10-3 at the half.
A fifteen-minute break must have been what this group needed because the final thirty minutes saw different results – just not from the start.
The offense was ready to break out until Jeff King committed another error by bobbling a Jake Delhomme pass that was picked out of the air by Charles Tillman who returned it to the 23. It didn’t take long and the Bears had punched it in for a 17-3 lead.
Jake got things going but not before taking a shot to the head by Lance Briggs. That seemed to fire him up. On the drive, the offense had managed to move into John Kasay field goal range to cut the score to 17-6.
Then came one of the biggest plays of the game. Chicago tight end Greg Olsen made a catch on the right hand sideline, the ball was stripped by (who else?) Chris Harris and recovered by (who else?) Chris Gamble. The Panthers were in business.
Jonathan Stewart would take it in from 4 yards out for his first touchdown as a pro. It was a game again with the score now at 17-13.
Late in the game you get what you expect – Jake taking over and doing his thing. With 6:46 remaining, the offense took over at their own 45. A slant to Muhsin Muhammad, a big catch and run by Brad Hoover and a run by Stewart and the ball was at the Chicago 25.
Then the Cajun hit Jeff King with a strike to the one-yard line. Stewart punched it in and the lead had changed hands with less than 4 minutes to play.
The defense had to do their jobs now. Chicago would have two shots. The first ended when Richard Marshall rushed hard off the left side of the offense and forced an intentional grounding penalty by Kyle Orton.
That was followed by a three-and-out by Carolina. Chicago got their second chance. This time, they would move it to midfield where a fourth-and-one would decide the outcome. Thomas Davis rushed hard off the offense’s right side to stuff Jason McKie and the Panthers only had to run out the clock.
The outcome looked nothing like the beginning. Call it a false start.
Some random thoughts from Sunday’s game:
- Muhsin Muhammad reached a career milestone against the team from the city where receivers go to die – he achieved 10,000 yards in his career. He now has 10,046 yards and had 5 catches for 56 yards on Sunday.
- Those logos looked outstanding on both 25-yard lines! Way to go, Joe Cooper!
- Jonathan Stewart lined up to return kickoffs more than the team might have hoped he would have to.
- We await word on a couple of players – Brad Hoover who was shaken up late in the game after making a big catch and Julius Peppers who appeared to be slowed down late.
- Carolina had 8 penalties in the first half and only 2 in the second half
- The Panthers offense gained only 47 yards in the first 30 minutes of play
- Kyle Orton started off 6 for 6 and finished 19 for 32 meaning he went 13 for 26 after his hot start.
- The Panthers had lost their previous four home openers
- Chris Harris got the better of the Bears. Forget the Moose comments and the payback. Harris was the one who stepped up and showed his old teammates what he was made of.
- There were a combined 22 penalties in this game.
- Devin Hester went out of the game in the third quarter which had to be a major boost to the Panthers special teams.
- Thomas Davis looks better all the time after his move to the weak side.
- Gary Gibson looks like a real player!
- Jason Baker can boom some long punts but should we be concerned about how long it takes him to get one away?
- Jeff Otah can dominate but he was schooled a few times in this game. Once called for a false start and on another play called for holding looking bad on the play. It was a penalty that cost the team a touchdown throw to Moose.
- That two-faced commercial for Southwest Airlines freaks me out!!!
- Fox REALLY needs to retire that idiotic robot. Then they need to fire the six-year-old who came up with it.