A season full of ups and downs officially came to an end this afternoon. The Carolina Panthers ended their season with a disappointing 45-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Like most games this year the Panthers had a very impressive first half and put together some very efficient drives. However, Drew Brees ended the first half with a 42-yard touchdown pass with seven seconds remaining, and that pretty much took the wind out of Carolina’s sails. When the second half started Carolina looked like a completely different team, something that has been a recurring trend throughout this season. Cam Newton seemed constantly frustrated and the Panthers weren’t able to put a single point on the board in the second half.
What I was most impressed with was how easy Carolina moved the ball down field in the first half. They never punted the ball once in the first half. Three of their four first half drives resulted in points, and the other drive ended with a redzone interception, when Carolina was on the verge of putting another touchdown on the board. Jonathan Stewart continued his impressive running, finishing the day with 9 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown. Carolina’s running game averaged almost seven yards per carry, totaling 24 carries for 164.
What disappointed me the most was how the defense played. The offense was constantly making plays to put points on the board in the first half, but the defense couldn’t get any stops to provide any type of momentum. They seemed very timid and failed to bring any intensity to the game. They did not tackle well at all, and you would have thought the Saints receivers had some type of disease, judging by the way the Panthers secondary was covering them. Defense has been an area of concern for the Panthers all year. Their inability to get stops on defense is the reason why they are going to be spending the next couple weeks watching the playoffs from their couches, instead of actually being a part of them.
A win against the Saints would have been a great way to end the season and would have provided some momentum that the team could have carried over into next season. However, after only winning two games last year, a 6-10 record and an offense that finished as one of the league’s 10 best units doesn’t seem that bad. They definitely have a franchise quarterback in Cam Newton and have plethora of running backs for him to give the ball too. Add a healthy David Gettis to a wide receiver corps that already includes Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, and the Panthers should have a very formidable passing game as well. They need to make a bunch of changes defensively, but hopefully they can fix those areas by getting guys healthy, and adding new faces via the draft and free agency.