Dec 23, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) stands on the field during a timeout in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Bank of America Stadium. Panthers defeated the Raiders 17-6. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers: Game Recap

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The Panthers play today was not at the same level we had seen coming into this game. They seemed unfocused and at times the play was sloppy. The first half Carolina was easily in control. There were a few times when the teams discipline was called into question. Not unusual for the Raiders but certainly not the norm for Carolina. One thing I did like seeing was when Cam went down and the Raiders were celebrating around him, his teammates quickly came to his defense. That is a good sign, it shows the team is rallying behind their leader.

Dec 22, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) scores a touchdown as Oakland Raiders defensive end Andre Carter (97) defends in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The roll the Panthers had been on really led me to believe Carolina would blow out the Raiders. The Raiders had other plans in mind. Their defense was stingy and chippy. That frustrated Cam and company. Normally the Panthers play is pretty well disciplined, or at least has been the last few weeks, but today it most certainly was not. The very first play of the game would set the tone for the remainder of this contest. A great 76 yard touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams brought back by a holding call against Steve Smith. Yep from that point on, it was a poorly disciplined football game.

There was a lot of  brashness displayed by Oakland when big plays were made. This was enough to bother Cam and as the game went on, his frustration increased. The Raiders did come into this one with a good game plan, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They were able to pressure Cam and force him out of the pocket at times. Now that is not always a bad thing. Cam is good at gaining big chunks of yards when flushed from the pocket, as evident by his leading the team in rushing yards with 60. He did that on only 12 carries. As a team the Panthers ran for 112 yards. That was good enough for Carolina to extend it’s winning streak to 3 straight. The game was really ugly in the 2nd half and really Carolina was their own worst enemy.They committed 10 penalties for 97 yards. That poorly disciplined play will cost you wins against better quality opponents.

The good thing is Carolina did win. Cam played well even though he did throw a pick, and we’re still seeing the more than the occasional poor throw. Truth be told, there was probably more than 1 ball Cam threw today that should have been intercepted. Fortunately for Carolina they were not. I think a mark of a good team is an ability to win ugly and the Panthers surely did that today. We love to see the raw emotion often displayed by Cam, but he crossed a line today when he bumped an official after being hit on a pass play. I guess he felt the hit was unnecessary and got up screaming at the official nearest the play. Well in all his youthful exuberance he did bump said official and drew a 15 yard penalty.  Cam will have to learn to keep his emotions in check because actions like that can and will cost the team games.

The player of the game in my opinion was Luke Kuechly. This guy has got to be the leading candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year! Luke had a team high 13 total tackles and                                                              added an interception for good measure. To me it seemed like he was all over the field and in on every tackle. Along with Kuechly, Thomas Davis played well also. The defense as a unit played solid football. Too many 15 yard penalties called against both teams today. One or 2 of them were warranted but a few of them seemed like they were good hard hits. Football is trying to remove a key element from the game. I am for making the game safer, but we can’t flag players for bringing the wood when the hits are clean.

The kicking game is still dicey at best. Gano missed a field goal but thankfully it did not come back to haunt us in the end. The team is trending upward but today’s win could be considered a lateral move. The good thing is now the coaching staff has something to drive home all week to the team. I hope they focus on player discipline this week. That will also help set the tone for things going into the off season.

Next up the Panthers travel down to the Big Easy. The Saints are playing well right now. Their defense is porous at best but the offense is on fire. I know the Saints are going to be looking for revenge against Carolina because of the loss they suffered in week 2 at Bank of America Stadium. We should see lots of points and several big plays in that one. That is gonna be a great game to end the season. It is of critical importance for both teams, preparing to go into the offseason, to end 2012 with a win.

God Bless!

Follow me on Twitter @JoeRiollano

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