Grading The Panthers' Dismal Divisional Playoff Loss to Arizona
Jake Delhomme set a new personal and franchise record for most interceptions thrown in a single game (five), regular season or playoff.
Arizona's Antonio Smith swatted the loosely-secured ball out of Delhomme's right hand as he was presumably waiting for Steve Smith to outrun his man. I don't know about you, but that invoked memories of the game-changing play from the Vikings in Week Three with me.
Delhomme's accuracy on the run was even worse than it was in the pocket. He threw across his body at least once, and naturally the pass was picked off.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, with the exception of two early runs amassing 40 yards and a touchdown, were held in check for the entire game. The two combined for 75 yards and averaged five yards per carry, but the figure that illustrates the type of night that pair had for the Panthers Saturday night is the former.
Neither could hit holes or had the ability to break tackles that they carried with them into the playoffs. Williams was unable to find cutback lanes, and his performance suffered for it.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Muhsin Muhammad had the best game of any Panther if you're only talking about catching passes—he had five receptions for 55 yards.
However, his blocking for outside runs was well below the standard we've come to expect from the guy. The Cardinals frequently penetrated the blocking on the outside and easily got to the ball carrier for a loss.
Steve Smith didn't catch a pass until the end of the third quarter. The only notable thing he did was catch a garbage touchdown late in the game after the outcome was already plainly obvious and almost all of the 70,000-plus crowd had left the stadium.
The only true positive was that seven different receivers caught at least one pass, and all catches picked up at least six yards.
The tight ends' blocking on off-tackle runs was just as bad as the receivers' on all-out sweeps.
The running backs never had holes, much less big ones. The run-blocking was horrendous; Cardinals defensive linemen and linebackers routinely got by the linemen as though they weren't there at all.
Pass-protection was tolerable in some spots, but Delhomme still got hit way too much. You gotta' think that that's part of the reason he was so out-of-sync with his receivers. Delhomme also got flushed out of the pocket way too frequently, and he's not a scrambling quarterback—he can't be forced out of the pocket too much.
The Cardinals had perhaps their best day of the season running the ball and Warner was almost never even under pressure. The pass rush forced a couple hurried throws and an interception early in the second half, but of course it didn't matter.
It was the same 'ol, same 'ol. Guys getting into position to make tackles only to miss them. It was a rude reminder of how bad the Panthers had been at tackling Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood in the Week 12 rematch with the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
Jon Beason had one interception, but there was nothing else to celebrate in the passing game.
Larry Fitzgerald and other Cardinals receivers got open at will, and when Warner hit them there was no Panthers defender anywhere near the play.
Nickel corner Richard Marshall got called for an unnecessary roughness penalty after he retaliated when a Cardinals player shoved him by the chest and facemask on the tail end of a play.
A Panther hasn't committed a penalty so stupid since Steve Smith's mugging of a Giants defender as DeAngelo Williams worked his way outside several yards from where Smith was in Week 16.
Rhys Lloyd shanked his first out-of-bounds kickoff of the year.
John Kasay made one measly extra point.
The coverage teams ranged from tolerable to flat-out pitiful.
This game was obviously the product of one of the worst-coached games of John Fox's career.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson changed nothing throughout the game. As Art Northrup, Jr.—a fellow Panthers fan who contacts me through email from time to time—said, "OC Jeff Davidson has got to go".
Defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac clearly made adjustments after halftime; the Cardinals scored only six points in the second half as compared to 27 in the first 30 minutes. But they came way too late.
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