25 November, 2008


November 25th, 2008

It was difficult to make my way to the keyboard after Sunday’s performance. A couple of hours with Jack Bauer (and NOT JACK DANIELS- I don’t think that would have done any good-) helped take my mind off of what I’d just seen. Yesterday I celebrated my 24th wedding anniversary, so it’s still been tough getting to the keyboard, but after digesting this debacle, I’m ready to rant-

And boy, will I rant!

I had wondered what to title this special rant - words like “Debacle” and “Disaster” kept coming up, but the passive mewing of a beat-up kitty cat seemed more appropriate. Even moreso,re-wording the onomatopoeia to suggest that this performance hurt. Boy, did it! Perhaps Mee-OUCH!!! would be better, but oh, I’m digressing…

Most of you spent Sunday afternoon writhing and gnashing and agonizing, as did I, and I almost DON’T want to know how James reacted, fixed knees and all. And I know SOME of you spent a miserable four hours driving back home thinking the worst of thoughts about our beloved football team. As opposed to ripping into it as I usually do, or going into some geeky metaphor, I will begin this much as an investigator analyzes a murder or as a coroner slices open a body, looking for clues. I subtitle this rant-


The game began with the Duckies clearly in aggressive mode. There was not a huge concern for us defensively at the start, as a mere field goal put our hated rivals ahead. But a trifecta of three-and-outs by the offense began to temper the optimism. It was clear the Duckies were getting more push on BOTH lines of scrimmage, keeping the pass rush off of Matt Ryan, and keeping the Panthers from getting into an offensive rhythm. At the end of the quarter, the Duckies were ahead, 17-0, and the Panthers were without even ONE first down. If this was any other team, the game would be over already. But the Panthers are a strong team in all phases of the game; on this day, those phases would be severely tested. A turnover created by Chris Gamble turned the momentum to the Cats, and a field goal put us on the board. Jake began to find a rhythm, and the running game began to find its footing. The half ended with the score 17-3, and the momentum beginning to shift to the Panthers. Sure enough, when the second half began, the resurgent Panther offense took the opening possession and rammed it down the Duckie’s gullets. The defense sprang to life and shut down the previously unstoppable Duckie attack. Another field goal got the score to 17-13, and now the Panthers were right where they needed to be going into the fourth quarter-

Only they didn’t tell the defense. All of a sudden, sound tackling became a lost art as the Duckie offense gashed us yard after yard. Another rushing touchdown by Turner pushed the score to 24-13, but the Panthers would strike again, with Jake scooting into the end zone and something UNSEEN in Panther lore – A MADE TWO-POINT CONVERSION! Now back to a 4-point game, the Panthers HAD to stop the Duckie offense, and get a now hot Jake Delhomme and the offense back on the field for the winning points. TickTickTickTickTickTick- A third and long with the Duckies deep in their own end of the field was the opportunity-


A bomb to Douglas, and WRETCHED TACKLING brought them to the Panther 6, and only a desperate pursuit by Chris Harris prevented the touchdown. Still, the Panther D managed to force a fourth-and goal-to go. Coach Smith decided to go for it. Turner was stopped briefly in the backfield, but INEXPLICABLY, the Panthers failed to wrap him up. He scored. Now, a ten point lead with seven minutes left began to move outside the Panther’s operating parameters. And now, the Panther offense suddenly bogged down on their own 1, a terrible place to be in catchup mode. Jason Baker managed to knock an INCREDIBLE punt down the field- So incredible, that he OUTKICKED the coverage- and Harry Douglas scooted into the end zone, against our usually reliable punt cover team. Score now 38-21, and this game felt like it was going to be over. Not so fast- Jake once again quickly moved the team down the field, and hit Moose with a TD strike, but there were only two minutes left in the game-The onside kick failed, and Turner again knocked in yet another touchdown as the defense totally wilted.

As I pull out the scalpel to slice open this Panther carcass, I’m surrounded by thousands of Panther fans in the observation area of the dissection arena. I withdraw a slightly bruised, but intact and perfectly healthy Jake Delhomme. Other than the slow start by the offense AS A WHOLE in the first quarter, there was NOTHING wrong with Jake’s performance on Sunday! He had damn near close to 300 yards, and would have had more if Smitty hadn’t dropped TWO KEY passes, and ONE was for a TOUCH! Moose also had a couple of miserable drops. Yes, the Jake was operating correctly, despite the vicious and STUPID rants of the ignorant and uneducated side of PantherNation that sees (and wrongly so) otherwise. With 134 yards of rushing, mostly by DeAngelo, we also find THAT organ in the Panther attack quite healthy. Ahh, here’s a decrepit and barely functioning system in the Panther carcass - The return game! Mike Jones could never penetrate the Duckie coverage, so the offense was CONTINOUSLY starting at the 20, or less. If I recall, our VERY BEST starting position, besides the SOLE TURNOVER of the game, was at the 32. A symbiotic organ, the return coverage, was also necrotic and malfunctioning. Together, these units contributed strongly to the loss, but here, in the guts of the Panther, there appears to be a VITAL organ that is missing-

The defense is out of the body. Ahah! Here’s how the victim met their fate – The Defensive organ must have dropped out of the body when hit by the aggressive play of the Duckies. There was no chance to survive the day, despite the best play of Jake and the offense.

So, with that analogy done, I’ve taken hundreds of words to say what I could have said in a simple sentence. The defense was abysmal on this day. Uncharacteristically dismal. And I’m at a loss to explain. I go back to my conversation with Eric Dalby years ago, about the individual battles on the line of scrimmage, but that seems to be excusive to me. There seemed to be no urgency on the defense. And worse- The tackling was as poor as I’ve ever seen on a Panther team, even more inexcusable. And I wonder, is this a continuation of poor Turkey-Vac product? If there is another performance like this, THIS YEAR, Foxy simply has to question keeping this coordinator around. And the play of the return coverage units? Almost as bad. This day was a glaring reminder that special teams indeed, can win or lose the game for you. I drag out another worn-out old axiom- “Stats are for losers”. But they can help tell a story- Look at the stats for the game- The Panthers out gained, out passed, out rushed, even led the time of possession, but still lost. WE DID NOT EVEN TURN THE BALL OVER! So HOW DO WE LOSE? Defense and special teams - These two phases of the Panthers game were shockingly poor against the Duckies, and the team is at the part of the season where these two are vital to MAKING the post season, let alone having success during it. A loss is a loss is a loss, true. It wouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of the campaign if the Panthers had been nipped by a single point, or by the preponderance of points dumped on us, as much as had violated us in years. The end result is that our lead is now gone, and for the time being, Tampa Bay is ahead of us in the division race. But the WAY we lost gives me much concern. There’s nothing wrong with Jake. He proved his health and efficiency to me on this game. His passer rating actually exceeded that of Ryan’s. Which brings me to another rant.

I am simply SICK AND TIRED of Jake Delhomme getting the brunt of the blame when the Panthers don’t perform up to expectations. I’m convinced our so-called fans are of terminal sub-intelligence if they don’t see he’s the best thing we’ve had at QB! Don’t they remember even LAST MISERABLE SEASON when we were without him? Call after call after call on the sports talk shows slam our Jake unmercifully. It infuriates me, when this man, of the highest character, and the most intense of competitive spirit, is singled out for the lack of success, when it occurs, on the team. Find a brain, you dumbasses! Even Brett Favre has a few stinker games! But you never heard Packer fans or now, J*E*T*S fans wanting to get rid of him! Go down the list of great quarterbacks, and you’ll find every single one, from Elway to Montana, struggling once in a while. And sometime, at the worst of times. I remember Montana getting knocked silly in the NFC Championship game by Giants. And in the Super Bowl? How many times was John Elway embarrassed? In my opinion, he could have been the very best that’s played the position. Think they wanted to run Johnny outta town in Denver? Not likely. And all of a sudden, I’m hearing Panther fans wanting to deal with the Pastry-Rots for Matt Cassel! ARE YOU SERIOUS? Come on, get real! This quarterback is succeeding in EvilCheck’s system! Take him out, and he likely flounders like Scott Mitchell. Jake Delhomme is our best chance to win, period. It really pisses me off when I hear our fan base talk stupid like that. I was concerned for him the past couple of weeks, but he proved his reliability on Sunday. That’s all I’m gonna say about this right now.

Back to this putrid performance of a defense – If this malaise isn’t fixed, and THIS WEEK, we are looking at a very difficult stretch of games, which at worst, takes us to 8-8, and OUT of the playoffs. We could possibly afford another loss, maybe even two, because 11-5 CERTAINLY gets you in. But how do YOU want to go to the ball? Do you want to go in your beat-up pickup truck? (allright Wildman, maybe YOU would- :-P ) Or do you want to pull up in your brand new Lexus? It would be nice to get a home bye. What I don’t want to see, period, is another abortion like PantherNation had to endure Sunday. What I DO want to see is a ravenous, dominating, bullrushing, rapacious, crushing effort from the defense in EVERY GAME for the rest of the season! These guys are proud professionals. When you hear Harris, BEASTON, Lucas, all of these guys talk, they BADLY want to perform, and win. Ok. I believe you. SHOW ME this Sunday. Win or lose, give your best effort against the Packers on their home tundra, and I’ll write glowingly about you and chalk up your wretched performance in Atlanta to a bad case of karmatitis. The Packers are ready to be had, too. If you didn’t see the game yesterday, they were positively PUNKED by the Saints. SMASHED. Their defense was just about as bad as ours, maybe worse. Brees moved the ball at will on them. Remember what WE did to the Saints? I’m expecting a desperate performance on both sides of the ball from both teams, but I keep coming back to one simple fact. Even with the stinker we laid at the Duckie Pond, we are the better team, no question. And I think that bears itself out next Sunday.

I’m reminded of our championship years. In 2003, our Super Bowl year, and in 2005, our drive to the NFC Championship game, we had a stretch of three bad games late in the season. Remember that? Also, remember that the damned Duckies were part of that stench. We just got them first this year. And true to Cardiac Cat fashion, we got into the playoffs, and away we went. My confidence has taken a little hit, but I’m still faithful that what we’ve seen this past week was an aberration. I think the offense gets in gear against that shell-shocked Packer D, and that OUR D is determined to play the stink of last week our of their heads. I’m so confident, that I’m ready to GUARANTEE a win this Sunday!

The Klingons have blasted at our shields, but we are still managing warp speed. Repairs to the Starship Panther are proceeding as we head to our next mission as we-


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