Monthly Archives: September 2013

Carolina Panthers blank New York Giants 38-0; What they’re saying

CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers answered a lot of questions with their 38-0 shellacking of the visiting New York Giants. Namely, would Ron Rivera still be the head coach following next week’s bye? Simply put, of course he will. Early in the game, a source within the organization said even if the Panthers had lost to the Giants, Rivera would not be replaced during the season.

But, getting the team’s first shutout since 2008 certainly erased those rumors.

It was the largest margin of victory in the Panthers’ 19-year history. It also was the Giants’ worst loss under head coach Tom Coughlin.

Carolina Panthers' wide receiver Ted Ginn caught this 47-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton.
Carolina Panthers’ wide receiver Ted Ginn caught this 47-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton.

Offensively for the Panthers, Cam Newton threw touchdown passes of 16 and 20 yards to Brandon LaFell, and completed a 47-yard pass to the speedster, Ted Ginn, for the Panthers’ final score. DeAngelo Williams rushed for 120 yards on 23 carries.

The defense was outstanding…or maybe it was just simply the ineptitude of the Giants’ offense making the Panthers look so good. An emotional Rivera nearly came to tears twice during the post-game presser. “This makes life easier. The last two weeks have been tough.”

The Panthers’ front four were led by defensive end Greg Hardy, who had three sacks in the first half alone. He repeatedly beat Giants left tackle Will Beatty to put pressure on Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning.

Carolina Panthers undrafted rookie Robert Lester recovered this fumble in the 38-0 win over the New York Giants.
Carolina Panthers undrafted rookie Robert Lester recovered this fumble in the 38-0 win over the New York Giants.

The convincing win brings the Panthers record to 1-2 and drops the Giants to 0-3. The Panthers defense came into the game a beat-up group. The secondary was decimated, with just one starter playing. But they helped themselves out a lot today. Given the chance, this motley crew came through with three takeaways. Undrafted rookies Robert Lester and Melvin White accounted for all three.

The Panthers’ defensive front line sacked Manning seven times, which tied a franchise mark set six previous times, most recently in a loss last season in Atlanta.

What I liked about this game:

  • The way Rivera finally opened up offensively. He went for it on an early fourth-and-one from the Giants’ 2-yard line. Fullback Mike Tolbert scored standing up and the rout was on.
  • Cam Newton looked like the Cam from the final six games of the 2012 season. Following an early interception, he ran the ball effectively when needed, and threw three touchdown passes.
  • Brandon LaFell finally looking like the receiver the Panthers thought he could be. Two touchdown receptions and he made a tackle at the Carolina 17-yard line following an interception thrown by Newton. His tackle allowed the Panthers’ defense back on the field where they stuck it to the Giants, not allowing any points.

HERE’S WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

Panthers’ offensive tackle Jordan Gross on the impact of this win: “It’s huge on a lot of different levels. It might silence a little bit of the murmurs about our organization, give our players a ton of confidence, and lend validity to what we’ve been doing. To be able to come out and get a 38-point win against the Giants, who did almost the exact opposite to us last year, really means a lot.”

“I was so nervous before the game,” Gross said. “I was as nervous as I’ve been in years. I knew how much this game meant and how bad I wanted the guys in the locker room to feel a victory.”

Gross talked about the play that everyone thinks changed the perception of the Panthers. Fourth-and-one from the 2 yard line, and Rivera went for it, in a scoreless tie:

“That was huge. Very symbolic. That’s been criticized for seven days now (since Rivera didn’t go for a fourth-and-1 in a loss to Buffalo). … So on the sideline afterward I told (center Ryan) Kalil, ‘Dude, that was awesome! We got that on fourth and 1!’ And Kalil says, ‘It was fourth and 1? I thought it was third and one!’”

Panthers’ linebacker Chase Blackburn (a former Giant) on the defensive effort Sunday: “We’ve got a great front four. In my career, I have been a part of some great defensive lines. To have those guys hunt (the quarterback), especially when we stop the run and make them one-dimensional, is a great feeling.”

Carolina Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn tackles David Wilson. The former Giant played well in the Panthers' 38-0 win.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn tackles David Wilson. The former Giant played well in the Panthers’ 38-0 win.

Panthers’ wide receiver Steve Smith talking about Cam Newton: “He was the better quarterback out there. That’s all we need. That’s all we ask. We just need him to be Cam Newton.”

Carolina Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton ran effectively for the first time this season and threw for three touchdowns leading the Panthers to a 38-0 win over the visiting New York Giants Sunday.
Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton ran effectively for the first time this season and threw for three touchdowns leading the Panthers to a 38-0 win over the visiting New York Giants Sunday.

Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton on the win: “A win like this boosts our ego, but not in a negative way. It just gives us that swagger we will need.”

Victorious for the first time this season, Carolina Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera walks off the field following the 38-0 win over the New York Giants.
Victorious for the first time this season, Carolina Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera walks off the field following the 38-0 win over the New York Giants.

Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera on the win: “You look at our guys and some of the things they do and the fact that they really want to win. And to win games like this, it’s because they deserve that opportunity. These guys have gone through a lot in the last three seasons, and I think to win a game like this, especially a team coached by Tom Coughlin, says something about who they are. And these guys have persevered, and hopefully this is the catalyst for us to get rolling.”

Carolina Panthers' rookie defensive lineman Kawann Short sacked Eli Manning...one of seven Panthers' sacks on Sunday's 38-0 win over the New York Giants.
Carolina Panthers’ rookie defensive lineman Kawann Short sacked Eli Manning…one of seven Panthers’ sacks on Sunday’s 38-0 win over the New York Giants.

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin on the Panthers’ defense and one big reason his team lost: “I’ll bet the quarterback got hit 20 times today.”

The Panthers are off this week with a bye and return to action at Arizona on Sunday, October 6.

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Carolina Panthers (0-2) drop game at Buffalo: What they’re saying

The track record for 0-2 teams making the playoffs since 2008 may tell the Carolina Panthers their season is over. But let’s hold off on that. The NFL is full of 1-1 teams right now, including San Francisco, Green Bay and the Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens. What is telling is that the Panthers continue to lose games they should win.

The 24-23 loss to the resurgent Buffalo Bills Sunday (with just :02 seconds remaining in the game) now makes head coach Ron Rivera a huge target. Under his leadership, the Panthers are 2-14 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, teams that started the season 0-2 have made the playoffs 11.6% of the time.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton sacked by Buffalo Bills defensive lineman, Marcell Dareus. This was one of six sacks recorded by Buffalo.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton sacked by Buffalo Bills defensive lineman, Marcell Dareus. This was one of six sacks recorded by Buffalo.

The offensive line was a sieve, allowing the Bills defense to sack quarterback Cam Newton six times on Sunday. While the Panthers’ offensive brain trust wants to limit Newton’s running  this season, his line must provide better protection. His only options, run or be sacked. The offense needs to be more vertical as well, in my opinion. Conservative football is on the wane in the NFL, and with Newton, the Panthers have an outstanding weapon. He is big, strong and has football smarts. Just look at the results in the final six games of the 2012 season and you can see that.

While the Panthers have been slow starters for the past two, now three, seasons, speculation, of course, is how long will Rivera remain in charge. Personally, he’s a nice guy who is very open to the media. You can see this team is hurting. But this is a “win now” league, and with Atlanta and New Orleans the big dogs in the NFC South, this team cannot afford to lose Sunday to the similarly smarting New York Football Giants and Eli Manning. If you thought EJ Manuel, the Bills rookie quarterback had an up-and-down day, maybe you’re right. In the Panthers’ defense, they did lose three-fourths of their secondary to injuries. Free safety Charles Godfrey is probably lost for the season with an Achilles injury. However, Manuel was 27-of-39 for 296 yards and did lead the Bills on a game-winning 80-yard drive to close out the game. So…what do you think Eli will do to the Panthers’ secondary?

Here’s what they’re saying about the loss:

Carolina Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera is certainly on the hot seat. His team is off to another slow start in 2013.
Carolina Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera is certainly on the hot seat. His team is off to another slow start in 2013.

Head coach Ron Rivera: “It’s very excruciating. You put yourself in position to win a football game, and you’ve got to close them out. That’s probably the toughest thing that we’ve got to learn to do – finish it off. How to punish somebody and end the game.”

Cam Newton, when the Panthers faced a fourth-and-one, from the Bills’ 21 yard line, with 1 minute, 42 seconds remaining on a call by Rivera, who opted for a field goal instead of going for the first down. “If we would have went for it on fourth-and-short, then obviously guys would have gritted their teeth and said, ‘Let’s get it’. And I have no doubt in my mind that we would have gotten it. But I have full confidence in our coaches’ decisions.”

Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel led his team on an 80-yard drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with :02 remaining to beat Carolina 24-23 Sunday. It was Manuel's first win in the NFL.
Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel led his team on an 80-yard drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with :02 remaining to beat Carolina 24-23 Sunday. It was Manuel’s first win in the NFL.

On the Bills’ final drive, it appeared that the Panthers had stopped them on third-and-6 from the Panthers’ 31 with 21 seconds left. Manuel sailed a pass that third-team safety Colin Jones intercepted. But officials ruled Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly interfered with Johnson, who was Manuel’s target.

Kuechly on the call: “He was running down the middle of the field, he crossed my face and I had my arm out and he ran into my arm. Everything happened quick. I’ll take a quick peak at it (Monday) to see what it looked like.”

The Bills were able to run another play…and this one was the dagger. Stevie Johnson, lined up in the slot, ran a corner route, with wideout Chris Hogan coming across the middle. The Panthers were in man coverage, with cornerback Josh Norman lined up across from Hogan and defensive back D.J. Moore on Johnson in the slot.

Moore yelled for a switch, meaning Norman was to pick up Johnson in the corner. Johnson said he heard the call, but Norman said he never did.

Moore on the play: “They ran the play earlier in two-minute, and we’re supposed to switch it off. It was virtually the same thing. It was probably on me. I have to make sure the corner gets (the call). If he didn’t get it, it’s on me.”

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) and tackle Jordan Gross (69) react to the Buffalo Bills' winning touchdown with :02 remaining in the game.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) and tackle Jordan Gross (69) react to the Buffalo Bills’ winning touchdown with :02 remaining in the game.

Tight end Greg Olsen, who had a 13-yard touchdown reception Sunday, on being 0-2, and losing another game the Panthers should have won: “I don’t even know at this point what to say anymore. We need to change it, and that’s our only option. … We can’t continue to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves and continue to say, ‘Man, why did this happen to us?’ It happens to us because we allow it.”

The Giants will also be seeking their first win of the season, which makes the upcoming game absolutely crucial for two teams expecting to be in the playoffs this year. Only one will have any kind of chance.

Carolina Panthers drop opener to Seattle Seahawks: What they’re saying

CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers went back to a tried and true formula from last year in their 12-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. Stay close and lose. Let me repeat that – stay close and lose. And, the Panthers are not happy about it. This team needs to get off to a quick start – the last two seasons they have started 2-8, and that will be unacceptable for this year’s team.

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) dives back for the ball after fumbling as Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman (25) stretches out for the ball. Seattle recovered the ball, ending the Panthers' chances to win on Sunday.
Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) dives back for the ball after fumbling as Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman (25) stretches out for the ball. Seattle recovered the ball, ending the Panthers’ chances to win on Sunday.

The Panthers were driving for a potential go-ahead score when running back DeAngelo Williams fumbled at the end of a 16-yard run inside the Seattle 10. Cornerback Richard Sherman hit Williams from the front, safety Earl Thomas popped the ball loose from behind, and defensive Tony McDaniel recovered at the Seahawks’ 8 with 5:25 left. Stay close and lose.

The announced Bank of America Stadium attendance was 73,294…and none of them came to see a replay of the last two seasons.

Here’s a round-up of quotes from players and coaches following the game:

DeAngelo Williams (76 yards on 16 carries): “It ultimately came down to that fumble, let’s just get that out of the way. It was my fault. In that situation, I’ve watched countless film on them and I know that’s what they do, they strip and go for the ball. But I’m a fighter. I’m going to fight for every yard that I can get and help my team win. When the ball came out, no one else was more (upset) than I was,” Williams said. “The hopes and dreams of the 11 guys on offense resided in that ball.”

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera: “You know I’d like to believe we have an opportunity to change (the memories of last season),” he said. “I’d like to believe that definitely we can get these things worked out and get it rolling. Again it’s a good football team we played against but we had opportunity … to beat a team that a lot of people are crowing right now. And you know it should be a wake-up call for us that hey, we can play with anybody and we are most certainly capable, and we’re going to win some football games.”

Rivera on what HE has to do to get over such a disheartening loss: “Go right back to work. I mean there’s really nothing you can do. … Just try to find the answer. I mean that’s what I’ll continue to do. And we found it last year late and it’s time to find it early. It really is. We can’t wait and I understand that and we will certainly find that answer and get rolling.”

Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith making a catch Sunday in a losing effort against the Seattle Seahawks in the Panthers' home opener.
Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith making a catch Sunday in a losing effort against the Seattle Seahawks in the Panthers’ home opener.

Panthers wide receiver (and most vocal of all Charlotte players) Steve Smith: “I think we’re going to see them again deep in January. For us to have played that team that’s considered by all accounts the best team in the NFL … I think if that’s who’s the best team, it came down to the last (minutes) and it was a well-fought game. Our season is not over.

“All the reports say we have to start fast or the season’s over,” Smith said. “If (Sunday’s game) means the season’s over, I’m not sure what kind of football y’all are used to around here. Because that’s not a quitting team.”

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton: “Let’s not panic now. We’re going to be all right. It’s just the first game. We played an unbelievable team and my hat goes off to Russell Wilson and those guys with Seattle. But I just feel like it was nothing that they did to stop us. It was just us that weren’t making the plays.”

Seahawks cornerback (and vocal team leader) Richard Sherman: “Great defenses find a way. And that’s what we try to do.”

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) being harassed by Panthers Defensive Tackle Colin Cole (91) who is being blocked by Seattle's J.R. Sweezy (64).
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) being harassed by Panthers Defensive Tackle Colin Cole (91) who is being blocked by Seattle’s J.R. Sweezy (64).

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (who finished with a regular-season career-high 320 passing yards, completing 25 of 33 pass attempts): “We just kept it alive,” speaking of overcoming the slow start offensively. “I think that attitude, that mentality, that coach (Pete) Carroll instills in us really gives us a chance to keep battling no matter what the circumstances are.”

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll: “The way we started, we were backed up and they got after us pretty good,” speaking of Wilson, who finished with a quarterback rating of 115.7. “He didn’t start real well — it wasn’t necessarily him, but we didn’t get the completions.”

Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (41) and linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) fight to make a tackle on Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89). The defense played tough, although they allowed Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to have a record-setting day.
Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (41) and linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) fight to make a tackle on Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89). The defense played tough, although they allowed Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to have a record-setting day.

“I thought he did a great job against a very active pass rush,” Carroll said. “He’s more in command of everything that we are doing in every phase. We don’t have to hold anything back. We can do everything we can think of and he can handle it.”

The Panthers return to action next Sunday when they travel to Buffalo to meet the resurgent Bills (who should have beaten New England yesterday) in a critical game.

 

Carolina Panthers name captains for 2013 season

Cam Newton, entering his third year as the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback, has been named as one of six team captains for this season. Head coach Ron Rivera announced the captains prior to Thursday’s practice.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, running in a game last year, has been named as one of six captains for the 2013 squad.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, running in a game last year, has been named as one of six captains for the 2013 squad.

In addition to Newton, the other five captains are reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year LB Luke Kuechly, LB Thomas Davis, WR Steve Smith, LT Jordan Gross and C Ryan Kalil.

Newton’s captainship reflects on how the 2011 No. 1 overall draft choice has grown over the offseason. He came to camp with a more serious attitude and showed a lot of leadership qualities. Kuechly, who led the league in tackles last season, is the defensive player everyone follows and gravitates towards. Davis, Smith, Gross and Kalil are the veterans who are showing the way for all players. Gross, Smith and Davis were captains last season as well.

The Panthers open the 2013 season Sunday at home against the Seattle Seahawks.