The Elevator: Carolina Panthers Turn Season Opener over to Philadelphia
The Carolina Panthers kicked off the 2009 season with a performance that rivaled their season-ending performance of a year ago.
That's not a good thing.
Jake Delhomme forced Panthers fans to relive the nightmare that was their playoff exit in the last meaningful game played at Bank of America Stadium.
Delhomme threw four interceptions and lost a fumble before being benched in the third quarter as the Panthers fell to the Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 38-10.
Seventeen of Philadelphia's 38 points can be traced back to Delhomme turnovers, and the Panthers ground game had to be abandoned before it was established—a recipe for disaster in Carolina.
The defense wasn't able to stop the Eagles attack, but were faced with several short-field situations. There was a noted increase in defensive intensity in the second half, but the outcome of the game was pretty much decided at that point.
Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb left the game in the third quarter after scampering for a touchdown, and early indications are that he suffered a fractured rib. Kevin Kolb replaced McNabb.
The Eagles added a punt return for touchdown to their scoring resume on Sunday, with DeSean Jackson returning the first Panthers punt of the year 85 yards for the score.
Let's take a look at the positives (we'll have to look hard) and negatives from Sunday's disappointing performance.
/\ The Opening Drive. The Panthers looked great, aside from a couple of untimely false starts in their opening drive. They marched 70 yards in 13 plays and capped it off with an 11-yard DeAngelo Williams touchdown run.
/\ Thomas Davis. Davis had a huge game, tallying 16 tackles. It wasn't often that you saw a play being made for the Panthers run defense that didn't have No. 58 involved. A good sign considering Davis' knee injury during the pre-season.
/\ Second-half defensive line play. Julius Peppers and Louis Leonard both tallied second-half sacks, and the unit played much better than it did in the first half. The Eagles only scored once in the second half.
/\ Jason Baker. His 55.8 yards-per-punt average is impressive, but will be overshadowed by DeSean Jackson's 85-yard return for a touchdown on his first attempt.
/\ Final drive. The Panthers made a valiant march down the field on their last possession. The drive would eventually end as the Panthers ran out downs, but it was good to see Matt Moore be able to lead the team down the field.
\/ Jake Delhomme. Hate to state the obvious, but Jake picked a bad day to have a bad day...again. Five turnovers in this one brings his grand total for 11 in the Panthers' last two meaningful games.
\/ Zone defensive scheme. There is clearly a flaw in the Panthers' defensive scheme. It seemed as though nine times out of 10, the Eagles receivers had the opportunity to catch the ball, turn, and make a move before encountering any resistance from Panthers defenders.
\/ Punt coverage. Captain Munnerlyn was guilty of over-pursuing DeSean Jackson on his 85-yard return for touchdown, and the rest of the unit is guilty of not coming close to bringing Jackson down.
\/ Offensive line. Looked good early, but Delhomme was on the run all day and got hit several times. Josh McCown suffered a knee injury after being hit as well.
\/ Play calling. Just like the playoff loss last year, the Panthers abandoned the run way too soon. They forced Delhomme into some questionable situations, ultimately leading to the meltdown.
\/ Mike Goodson's butterfingers. Goodson fumbled in some of his first live NFL action...not a good sign seeing as how he had trouble holding onto the ball in the pre-season as well.
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