We could continue to regurgitate the facts – 24 penalties in two games, 11 false starts in two games, the lack of offensive production – but we won’t. Why do that?
Sunday’s matchup with the Atlanta Falcons has become a critical game for the Carolina Panthers. Why?
This team needs to prove that last week’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings was no indication of how they will perform this season. Getting back to winning ways will prove that they are made of better stuff this season.
They will again be facing a major test versus a running game that has been outstanding. Michael Turner (not Ladainian Tomilnson, not Adrian Peterson and not Matt Forte) is leading the NFL in rushing after three weeks. The defense has something to prove – again.
Finally, Jake Delhomme has only one passing TD this season. It’s not necessary that he end the year with 30 or 40 but hitting on a couple of big plays and including as many of his receivers and tight ends will send a signal that he is, indeed, all the way back.
A loss this week would be devastating – both to the team and the fans. Here are five ways to avoid falling not only back to .500 but one game back in the division:
1. Matt Ryan must be hit! How many times has this kid been sacked this season? Five! Only five times in three games. Sorry, but it’s time to put a few bumps and bruises on him. Hit him before and after he throws. It doesn’t matter. Just make sure that he knows that the Carolina defense is there to play all day and that he’s not coming out of this game without first being tested.
2. Match their intensity. Mike Smith, like his old boss, Jack Del Rio, is a proponent of playing physical and with intensity. The Panthers have to match this. Executing is great and the team must do that but playing with some emotion and intensity is just as important if not even more important.
3. Stop the insanity!! I’m saying this one more time and I promise you it’s the last – get over the freaking penalties! A lot of what we’ve seen have been mental mistakes and not just somebody pulling a face mask. False start penalties drive coaches crazy and fans crazier. Start with listening to Jake in the huddle and don’t go until he says go. Simple, huh?
4. Test their corners. Brent Grimes and Chris Houston haven’t been around long. Sure, they looked good last week facing Tyler Thigpen and the Chiefs but they have yet to see Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith. Show them a trick or two and make them earn their keep out there. Double move these kids, take them deep and, frankly, pull out all the stops. Sooner or later (more like sooner than later), you’ll have someone streaking wide open down the sidelines.
5. Confusion rules! Our second item involving the Falcons’ rookie signal caller – disguise is the name of the game. Wanna blitz? Don’t show it before the snap. Gonna play a two-deep zone? Don’t let the kid see it. Whatever the defense does must be enough to have this wunderkind asking himself a few questions, burning a couple of timeouts and generally making him look like the rookie he is.