Yes, it was the Indianapolis Colts. And, yes, we did only win by eight points. But you can’t help but feel like this victory could set the tone for the remaining five games of the season and all of next season as well. Once you get accustomed to the taste of winning, it starts to become more and more desirable and you start figuring out ways to achieve success.
That being said, I thought the Panthers did a lot of good things last week against the Colts to help them secure the victory. One of the things that stood out to me the most was the efficiency of Cam Newton. He didn’t do anything special, but he managed the game very well and was patient in reading the defense. He finished the day going 20-27 for 208 yards, and also ran the ball nine times for 53 yards and a touchdown. And, most importantly, he did not turn the ball over. In games where Cam has not committed a turnover, we are a perfect 3-0, but in games where he has turned the ball over, we are a dismal 0-8. The Panthers also did a great job of keeping a balanced offensive scheme throughout the course of the game. We threw it 27 times and ran it 35 times. It was nice to see Rivera play a game where he emphasized the run game a bit more than the pass, and the result speaks for itself. DeAngelo Williams had 15 carries for 69 yards with two touchdowns and that is the most carries he’s gotten by far all year. One would think that after signing a 5-year/$43 million dollar deal that he would be averaging more than 9 carries a game. Now, the yardage he gains once he is given the ball, all rests on his ability as a runner and the ability of the guys blocking for him, but how many carries he is given is up to Ron Rivera and the coaching staff. I mean he’s averaging five yards a carry, but when you only get the ball nine times a game you’re not going to be able to make that many plays. Jonathan Stewart was our leading rusher on the day. He continued running over defenders with brute force just like he’s done for the majority of the year. He finished with 10 carries for 70 yards. But just like Williams, Stewart is not getting nearly enough carries. He is averaging a mere 8 carries a game, but is averaging a solid 4.8 yards per carry. So the solution is simple: give these guys the ball! Another guy that stood out in my mind was Brandon LaFell. He got his first start of the season and did a very nice job. He is proving that he should be the starter opposite of Steve Smith, and I honestly can’t disagree with that. He is a much bigger threat downfield than Legedu Naanee. He also has a very good set of hands and catches just about everything that is thrown his way.
After Sunday’s game, I began to hear a fair amount of praise for Sherrod Martin’s play throughout the game against Indy. However, I did not like what I saw from him at all. He was constantly out of position on passing plays (just like he has been all year); he was getting manhandled by wide receivers in the running game; and he made one of the worst tackles (or should I say attempted tackles) I’ve ever seen when he tried to tackle Reggie Wayne on that 54 yard 4th quarter touchdown from Curtis Painter. Granted, he did make the interception at the end of the game to seal the victory, but that was mostly due to the fact that Curtis Painter made a bad throw that got tipped and gave Martin the opportunity to pluck it from the air.
But good things did happen on the defensive side of the ball for the Panthers. They were able to get some pressure on Painter and rattle him a bit and that forced him to make some errant throws. The linebackers, Jordan Senn and James Anderson in particular, did a very good job of plugging up the running holes for most of the game. The Colts were able to break a couple of decent runs but other than that they were pretty much held in check. Chris Gamble also did a great job of shutting down the Colts’ biggest speed threat, Pierre Garcon, limiting him to just 3 catches for 34 yards. He also came up with a very big interception that halted a Colts drive in the 4th quarter when they were getting close to putting points on the board.
The special teams also played well besides the blocked field goal that occurred before halftime. Kealoha Pilares had another nice return into Indianapolis territory that he almost took to the house for six. The kickoff and punt coverage teams played exceptionally well, limiting the Colts to no kickoff returns and a punt return average of -3 yards. All in all, the Panthers played their most complete football game of the season. They protected the ball, got the stops on defense when they needed them, and were able to make a couple of nice plays on special teams. I think they’ll use this win as a stepping stone to move forward and one can truly hope that they can finish the season strong and put a couple more W’s on the board.