24 September, 2007

Time to ride again- The 2007 season

By “Crazy Joe” the “Cedar Street Seer”

Ok, Pantherfanz-

Where do I begin?

This is my very first official “rant of the website”, and I’m painfully aware of the shoes I’m walking behind. I say that, because I could never fill them. Marc was a gifted writer, among all of the other things he was, and I, as I am sure the rest of you are, painfully aware of his absence not only on gameday, but everyday. I’m just a crazy shmo that shared Marc’s passion and energy for the whole thing. Dammit, Marc, I miss you dude. I miss you so much. And still, I can feel you pushing us from your eternal home, “KEEP THE PARTY GOIN’, FANZ!!! KEEP IT GOIN!!!!”

So with that, let me begin my “Rant”, catching up with my feelings of the past three weeks. I’ve just chased my teenage daughters off of the computer to begin this, and I’m still absorbing the hard-fought victory over those hated, pesky, Duckies from Atlanta. I can’t help feeling that this season will once again be that cardio-pulmonary abusing rollercoaster ride that we’ve unfortunately all gotten accustomed to in the past.

Dismissing the preseason, we begin with the clackity-clack up the track at St. Louis. Brian managed to snag a choice package trip with airfare and tickets for two for the Rams game. (Thanks so much, Brain!)I finally got to experience for the first time since a ’99 trip to The Frozen Tundra (the Bronco Beuerlein Game) a road game, and tailgating with Rams fans. I gotta say those Ram Fanz were almost as friendly and hospitable as those Cheeseheads we partied with. We also discovered RedBreast is probably the very best whisky you can drink. At the dome, finally, the cars screamed down the tracks, and the ride was on! Keeping the speed and momentum, we parlayed a nice mix of running and passing into enough points to win, while our defense played well enough to hold off that supposedly “Greatest Show on Turf”. Now the cars have crested, and we’re ON TOP OF THE TRACKS, looking DOWN on the rest of that amusement park that is this NFL season.

Euphoria follows us into the home opener, against the perennially bumbling Texans. Never minding our dismal home opener record, I guarantee none of us felt like we could lose this game. Hell, I even thought Marc would intervene from the beyond, AKA, “Angels in the Outfield”, to insure a victorious outcome. And it sure looked like it in the first quarter when Smitty exploded. Unfortunately, our defense continued playing as it did last year, and we jumped the shark, at home, once again. How utterly disappointing. Of course, when we budgeted wins and losses, most of us were willing to punch an “L” for the Rams game, so that was a wash, and Houston actually isn’t that bad, and being out of conference, was not a terrible game to lose. But the defense, damn, that defense- So the cars now zoom downward, and that heart-in your mouth feeling returns.

Clackity-clack go the cars once again today, up the crest to The Georgia Dome, which has actually been kind to us as of late. When’s the last time we lost there? Anyone remember? Three years ago, in the ’04 season. We managed to smoke the damned Duckies in ’05, ’06, and now ’07, although I wouldn’t call this game a thing of beauty- The whole damn thing was a roller coaster ride. A game like this should never, EVER be in doubt. On paper, a team like The Panthers should absolutely, positively, PUT THEIR FOOT ON THEIR DAMN NECK and NEVER LET THEM OFF THE #$#@_^(*in’ TURF!! But nooooooooooo-

I knew from the opening drive when a pass was called on third-and-short when a power run was warranted, that this was going to be an excruciating game. Our pass defense, once again, failed to pressure a washed up bottom-feeder QB like Joey-Bag-o-Donuts. We should have feasted on him. We also allowed a few big runs, and damnit, a pro like Ken Lucas should KNOW HOW TO FREAKIN’ TACKLE! But a telling camera shot on Mike Toilet-Vac on the sidelines emphasized the pressure on this coaching staff to deliver. Thanks goodness for a resurgent running game, and true to John Fox fashion, a classic grind-it-out finish ensues. A victory, yes, but not a really satisfying one, given the dire straits of The Duckies. This should have been a 34-10 game, but we let them in the game, and if DeAngelo Hall doesn’t have a mental meltdown covering Smitty, perhaps there’s a different outcome. Which leads me to these particular feelings about our Beloved Panthers.

The glaring problem with this team is what is supposedly our strength. Our defense consistently FAILS to defend the pass, consistently FAILS to pressure the QB, does NOT create enough turnovers, considering the “paper talent” we have. OK, you know what? I don’t want to hear anymore sports talking heads talk about “that vaunted front four”- They are still living in ’03. Our defense hasn’t SNIFFED dominant since then. Not consistently, anyway. They have absolutely shown me NOTHING. So you know what, Panther Defense? You want me to cheer you when I’m sitting in my overpriced seats in the BOFFO BOFA? SHOW ME SOMETHING!!! Sack the QB! CREATE A TURNOVER! GET OFF THE FIELD ON THIRD DOWN!! Dammit, I, and so many of your fans DESPARATELY want to cheer our hearts out for you! But when we are so consistently let down by underachieving performances by a defense that has Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker, Kris Jenkins, Dan Morgan, Richard Marshall, etc, in it, I have come to watch your games in silence. Oh, and those special teams- continue to not be very special. I truly appreciate Nick-Comings-and-Goings’ effort on our team. He’s earned his roster spot. But he’s JUST NOT A KICK RETURNER- and Ryne Robinson hasn’t shown anything yet. Thank goodness for John Kasay, who really deserves a statue besides Sam and Mike (After-Dinner-Minter) who continues to kick CLUTCH field goals.

Of course, the cupboard isn’t exactly bare when it comes to our team. I really do think the offense is a nice work in progress that really continues to improve. Against a really desparate Duckies defense not wanting to go 0-3, and definitely NOT in front of their home fanz, they really had a nice mix of run and pass, and it looks like Jeff Davidson’s offense is taking hold and making sense to these players. I really think this group is going to improve throughout the season, and we are going to need it. Am I really using the word “Really” that much? Really………This defense just isn’t that good. Wanna feel good about our Rams victory? They’re 0-3 now, too, having just lost to those punchless Buccaneers, who we get at home next week. Think THAT’S an easy win? They are bringing their very best game to us. Our home field advantage disappeared long ago. Just PRAY HARD that Jake’s elbow injury isn’t serious. David Carr’s shown us NOTHING yet, and I’m not confident in his leadership qualities.

The season is young, still, the defense could find it’s teeth in the jars besides Toilet-vac’s nightside table, and Ryne Robinson could develop in the next coming of Mel Gray, but that’s the dying optimist inside of me. The emerging realist is looking at a team that’s really average in many areas, and good enough in a few to make for some thrilling, but agonizing moments on this rollercoaster ride that will be our season. I’m here for the whole damm thing, with Marc riding shotgun both at the Cedar Street lot and my keyboard. How ‘bout you?


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