Its opening week in the NFL and the Carolina Panthers finally hosted an opening game something they haven’t done in two years. The Panthers brought in the Seattle Seahawks for their week one matchup, the team that most publications and sites have at the top of the power rankings as well as a top Super Bowl pick. The Panthers lost this one, but to me I found hidden wins all over the place. I am tweaking “The List” format to put in all the necessary information I feel is needed. Ranking the worst things from the game, which is what I usually do, just seems silly now so I’ll just put in my observations.
Cam Newton really had a great game today. He had one miss-thrown pass that I can recall; a 20 yard+ pass to Brandon LaFell which wasn’t really his fault at all, for O-Lineman Chris Scott was called for a holding penalty after a Seattle Lineman got the best of him. Cam showed confidence in the pocket with great presence and poise and never once showed off his unsettling clap to hurry up the line. He really showed me today why he was named captain and why I have full faith in him leading the offense.
Along with Cam, DeAngelo Williams had a great game as well, with one obvious error, the fumble on the eight yard line in the red zone, and you can’t really blame him for that. Williams was fighting for the extra yards and the Seattle D just made a great gang tackle in the backfield. Williams averaged 5 yards on 17 carries with a total of 86 yards. In comparison Marshawn Lynch, the league’s third best back when it came to total yards last year, averaged 2.5 yards on the same number of carries, 17, and only totaled 43 yards. DeAngelo had a great game gashing one of the league’s best defenses and really showed us that age is not a factor.
Now before I get to one of the biggest surprises of today’s game, I have to talk about our receiving unit, which was a mixed bag. Steve Smith had a productive game with the day’s only touchdown and 61 yards on 6 receptions. Ted Ginn had one good catch for a crucial first down and Greg Olsen had a very productive game as well with 56 yards on 5 receptions. There were two big letdowns out of the receiving core though. Greg Olsen dropped a few nicely thrown balls; two really come to mind, both in the first half. One down the side and one straight down the middle. Both were great throws and terrible drops. Olsen redeemed himself, but Panther fans have come to expect more from Olsen. The other disappointment was Brandon LaFell. He was nonexistent today and for the Panthers to succeed they really have to diversify the passes. Newton is starting to look like Andy Dalton staring down A.J. Green, with Smith being our Green, and that is not a recipe for success.
Now the biggest surprise from the day, the Offensive Line! They really produced when it came to pass protection and run blocking. Without the line, Williams would not have been as successful as he was, and Cam had some time to check down the field for some open looks. There were a few breakdowns, but they really worked as a unit, even when the backups came in for an injured Gary Williams. The Line played together, and really produced. We have to remember, this is a top five defense. They held us to seven points, but there were some really good drives and the production from Williams really has me excited for the rest of the season. Overall it was a very decent showing from the offense.
Holy Schnikes! This is a good defense! I’ll start off with the Defensive Line and Linebackers, the real MVPs of the game. Star is a star. Lotulelei was well worth the top pick in the draft and Kawann Short played extremely well too. Hardy and Johnson played very well off the snap, and the line pressured Wilson the entire time. The only gripe I have against the line is Colin Cole, who plays slow when Wilson would scramble. But even with the growing consensus of rushing QBs Cole’s speed isn’t much of an issue, most QBs are not as versatile as Wilson. The push on the opposing line was fantastic. The Linebackers were a close second on the best defensive unit. Luke Kuechly is still the same Luke; in on every play making sure his presence is noticed. The same goes for Davis and Beason. However, they let a few tackles go where Kuechly would have wrapped the guy up. There were some great group tackles and the hustle on the field was unbelievable. They really produced today and man oh man; this is the most fearsome front seven in the NFL. Oh yeah, I went there.
The secondary played decent as well. The pressure was definitely off for deep throws, that’s to the tremendous pressure from the front seven. With that being said, when Wilson threw deep, the Corners got beat and relied on the hustle from Mikell and Godfrey (Who both worked their tails off, getting a sack and, like Kuechly, made their presence known. Mikell is a great pickup, he played really well today.) Thomas needs to step up, being the primary CB who was picked on by Wilson today. I really think Norman should be starting instead, but that’s my opinion.
The second biggest surprise from the game was Punter Brad Nortman. Nortman was statistically the worst punter in the league last year and he earned a bad reputation with fans. He shanked many a punt and contributed to some of the close loses, i.e. the Chicago Bears game. Nortman has drastically improved from last year though. He nailed three or more, I can’t remember, into the corner and pinned two from distance in between the end-zone and the ten yard line, a stat that is recorded by the NFL. I was so pleased by Nortman who is looking like an entirely new player.
Beyond that, the Panthers played well on Special Teams. They made some great tackles in the open field, but then again they let a few returns go a little long. Also, there was one glaring error on Special Teams; Josh Thomas’s muffed punt, which was recovered by the Seahawks. Luckily Seattle didn’t capitalize on the play and ended up punting again. However, the miscommunication should be addressed. I like to think that Thomas was just in wrong place at the wrong time. Nevertheless, the Special Teams played extremely well, especially in contrast with their poor play in the past.
The game was basically even the entire time, with only a few plays deciding the outcome. The Seahawks are an extremely good team with Super Bowl aspirations within reach. If the Panthers play as well as they did today in every single game, there will be more than a just 7 wins for the season. Seattle may be the most complete team on the schedule and the fact that we held them to only 12 points is a victory within itself. Seattle has a top offense and possibly the top defense. I believe that this is a great bode of confidence going into the season.
Before I leave, I’d like to point out a cool initiative being made by Tide. Yes, they are the laundry detergent guys, but bear with me. Tide is teaming up with the NFL to bring fans closer to players with the Team Colors campaign. Each of the 32 teams in the NFL has a “Team Color Captain” and Tide has selected Greg Olsen as the Panthers “Color Captain”. Greg Olsen will be providing fans with an inside look at the Panthers locker room, Panthers events, his family as well as other Panther player families, and most importantly us, the fans!!
You can follow @gregolsen88 and @TideNFL for pictures of anything and everything sporting Panther’s colors. You can also tweet a picture of yourself sporting Panthers colors using the hashtag, #ourcolors. Let the world know your blood runs Black and Blue!
Also let me know if you think the best Panthers writer ever, Tony Cardwell, should have a twitter presence? Let me know in the comments below or shoot me an e-mail if you’re really fired up!