Okay Panthers fans....it's Halloween Day and officially time to panic.
The Panthers laid an egg at home last night, losing to the road warrior I mean road kitten Saints, 28-10 on Thursday Night Football.
Offense was at a premium for both teams in the first half as the Saints took a 14-0 lead into halftime. One of the two TDs came on a long, hard-fought, 4-yard drive of two plays thanks to a Newton fumble at his own goal line after a sack by Junior Gilette.
The other was set up by a highly dubious pass interference call on Antoine Cason.
A third TD, the Saints' first of the second half, came on a 4th and goal QB sneak where Drew Brees tried the "jump-stretch" play that Cam has the size to do but Brees made it close. He still scored, having the ball break the plane of the goal line before he got body slammed back.
It was that kind of game.
The Panthers got two turnovers
Mark Ingram had 100 yards on 30 carries, so the defense made him earn it. Considering the manner in which the Saints scored their points, the Carolina defense actually played well overall. The problem is the offense couldn't do much to keep Brees & company off the field.
I do want to set ONE thing straight here and now: the problem is NOT Cam Newton. Cam is trying to do everything because he isn't getting much help aside from Kelvin Benjamin. And Kelvin dropped a TD pass last night.
NFL AM is showing a teaser right this moment "What's WRONG with Cam Newton?"
You wanna know what's "wrong with Cam?" FINE!
- His offensive line had not one but TWO rookie UFAs starting! STARTING! Not only that, the certainly seemed to make the weak side of the offensive line truly weak. I don't blame the kids in there playing and trying...but you can't expect a couple of inexperienced and undrafted rookies to play like the line they have in Dallas these days. The Cowboys spent multiple high picks on theirs and over multiple seasons to get where they got their O-line to now. Dave Gettleman appears bound by some unholy contract NOT to get offensive linemen in the top two rounds.
Cam's targets are still dropping passes. Cam might get excited and put too much mustard on some passes, sure, but it isn't like his receivers don't see him EVERY DAY or know what he can do. In fact, Cam's first half interception was due to a pass bouncing off Breston Bersin's hands. Cam had the worst QBR (12.1) he's ever had in a half, and it was plays like that which contributed to it.
Certainly, Cam hasn't been perfect. His timing was off last night and he wasn't completely accurate on a lot of throws but a good WR should be able to adjust to a catchable but less-than-perfect ball placement to haul it in.
Also, Cam pretty correctly feels that he needs to do all he can to help the team win. The running game went largely nowhere as DeAngelo Williams could only put up 20 yards on eight carries. Stewie had 46 on 8 carries for a nice average, but he got stuffed for little to no gain on half his attempts. Cam got the team on the board with a 10 yard diving-to-the-pylon scramble and run on 3rd and goal as the pass rush got after him almost as soon as he received the shotgun snap.
And Cam is the PROBLEM? Folks, open your eyes willya? He's the only one making things HAPPEN on offense! He got decent protection on perhaps a handful of drop-backs; the rest of the time he was running for his life. Last night, his passes were generally on target or "close enough" that the target should have made the catch but didn't.
If you look at any given game where the offensive line isn't protecting the QB well, you're going to see a sub-par game from the QB. Look at the Super Bowl last year.
With the gifts the Saints' Drew Brees-led offense got last night, I'm surprised they only got 28 points. Both TDs in the first half were gifts, wrapped up in nice paper with a bow and they had to reach into their 4th down "trick or treat" bag for a third TD. Under those circumstances, the defense did as much as could be reasonably asked, I think.
I have been telling the fans (those that will listen) what's wrong with the team all year and the same things continue to be problem areas. Those are the offensive line and the defensive backfield.
Until those needs are addressed, don't expect the Panthers to play too much better than they did last night.
Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye