Carolina Panthers: Week 14 Game Recap (Blowout in the Bayou)

It had to come to an end eventually. The Panthers were riding a wave of eight consecutive wins. Sunday night, in front of a national TV audience, the wave came crashing down. And what a mighty fall for Carolina.

The Panthers were looking like legitimate contenders to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. New Orleans was coming off a good old fashioned beating at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle and Carolina share many similarities as a team. Both have young, mobile quarterbacks, rely on a strong run game as a major part of the offense, and they have a stingy, aggressive defense. The Seahawks showed the whole NFL just how good they are by beating New Orleans and it was Carolinas turn, but the Panthers had to do it in the Superdome.

New Orleans was undefeated at home this season and had won 10 straight primetime games. Ron Rivera and Carolina had the blueprint for beating the Saints. They saw it in action Monday. Well we now know just how good the Saints are and Sunday night, Carolina, played like a fifth seed playoff team. That is probably being too generous.

Carolina was dominated up front on both sides of the ball. The offensive line could not keep the Saints defenders from harassing quarterback Cam Newton. He was sacked 5 times for a total loss of 49 yards. The line did a decent job of run blocking but Carolina was not able to cash in the opportunities it had early. Once the Panthers got behind, the run game became less of a threat and the Saints were able to pin their ears back and go after Cam. This was the Panthers Achilles heel in this game.

On the defensive line, Carolina could generate zero pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees. This was the key to slowing down the high octane Saints offense. Given time, Brees will pick apart any defense. We saw Seattle disrupt the rhythm of the Saints offense by pressuring Brees and forcing him to throw the ball short or to throw it before he wanted. The evidence was there, it was just a matter of the Panthers executing as they have done all throughout this season. Carolina failed in doing this and allowed the Saints to impose their will against both the defensive and offensive units.

Clearly the Saints were motivated after the embarrassing performance against Seattle. They were playing at home and it was a primetime game. The game was hyped up all week and the Panthers were the talk of the NFL. This may have served as a distraction for Carolina, but this is big boy football and every week teams have to bring it. The Panthers looked lethargic and seemed emotionless in a game that was the most important of the season so far.

I don’t understand why Carolina did not make better use of running backs Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. We have been making excellent use of Tolbert during the eight game win streak, but I believe he had only five touches in this game. Where is the sense in that? I understand wanting to use DeAngelo Williams. He is the quickest back Carolina has, but he was held in check for the most part. So why not go to Tolbert and let him run against the Saints defense? They eventually did, but it was too late in the game. Also the receivers seemed to have difficulty separating from the Saints defensive backs. This allowed more time for the defensive line to pressure Cam. Cam may have held the ball too long occasionally, but if there was no one open his options are limited. Perhaps he could have taken off with the ball and gotten some yardage with his legs, but we can’t see the whole field so we don’t know what may have caused him to hesitate in doing so.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this shameful loss by Carolina. Yes the Superdome is an incredibly difficult place to win at, but that is no excuse for how poorly the Panthers played. Maybe this humiliating loss is just what the doctor ordered? Being humbled like they were Sunday night may be what Carolina needs to hunker down and refocus on the task at hand, making the playoffs.

Join my friend, Anthony Dunn, and I Wednesday night as we go over the Blowout in the Bayou, and take a look at the upcoming game against the Jets. We may have a surprise guest too. Check us out at Cat Chronicles on Google+ at 930 pm EST.

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