The Carolina Panthers continued their depressing start to the 2009 season by losing their third consecutive game on Monday Night Football in Dallas.
The Cowboys overcame a shaky first half to score 21 unanswered points in the second half and beat a Panthers team that is nosediving quickly less than a quarter of the way through the season.
For Panthers fans, Monday night's loss was likely the most disconcerting of the young season to date as the team played uninspired football in the second half against a Cowboys team who was begging to be beat.
The numbers are startling from any angle you choose to look at them.
Let's get right into 'The Elevator' and try to figure out just what in the world is wrong with this team.
/\ Dante Rosario. Rosario leads all Panthers receivers with two touchdowns on the season. The catch? They are the only two that Jake Delhomme has thrown compared to his seven interceptions.
/\ DeAngelo Williams. DeAngelo averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 11 carries against the Cowboys. It's a shame he didn't have any more than 11 carries against the weak Cowboys run defense. Williams, one of the league's elite running backs, can't be impressed with the effort put forth thus far by the Panthers.
/\ Jon Beason. Beason had 11 total tackles and a sack on Monday Night, but is still a shell of his old self after a knee injury in the preseason. The bye week will help him get back to full speed.
Going Down... (hope you have a minute)
\/ John Fox. There is absolutely no reason why the Panthers ran only six rushing plays in the second half. After the Panthers allowed Dallas' first touchdown to make it 13-7, there was one rushing play in the next two drives for a one yard loss.
There comes a time when a losing team loses faith in the head coach and turns a deaf ear to the strategy and motivation he is trying to relay to the team. That time has apparently come in Carolina.
\/ Receivers. All of them. Muhsin Muhammad gave up on Delhomme's first interception and gave an unnecessary push in the back on a play that would have been at least a first down, if not the touchdown that was called back.
Steve Smith spent most of his time on the sideline jawing at Delhomme instead of trying to find a way to solve a simple Cowboys defense. When it was his turn to make a play, he took matters into his own hands and ran the wrong route trying to turn nothing into something, leading to Terrence Newman's game-clinching interception return for a touchdown.
Dwayne Jarrett still hasn't gotten off of the team bus, much less the line of scrimmage. Kenny Moore is the only receiver who did anything commendable, catching both passes thrown to him for a grand total of 19 yards.
You can knock on Delhomme all you want but when his receivers aren't attempting to catch the balls he's throwing, or are unwilling to bail him out on bad throws, he's in a position that will not allow him to succeed.
\/ Offensive line. Delhomme has taken a beating so far this year, and the line simply isn't creating the holes it did last year to allow the Panthers to establish their running game. If the Panthers are going to call more passing plays per game in a close contest than rushing plays, the offensive line has to give Delhomme some protection.
\/ Charles Godfrey. Charles, your jockstrap is still on the field in Dallas.
\/ Ability to score points. The Panthers have scored 37 points in their first three games-one point shy of the total that Philadelphia put on the Bank of America Stadium scoreboard on opening day.
\/ Effort. Can you remember the last time a team took a 7-0 lead into the half, made no adjustments and came out for the second frame like they had already lost the game?
\/ Julius Peppers. Stay tuned.
\/ Cheering for this team. Make no mistake about it, I'm one of the biggest Panthers fans you will ever come across. I eat, sleep, breathe, drink, and live for this team. From Sunday to Sunday I chomp at the bit for the chance to watch this team, my hometown team that I have grown up watching since I figured out what a football was.
As embarrassing as it is right now to admit the above, its true. I watched all 16 games of the 1-15 season in 2001 and never once reached this level of frustration and anger. At least that team acted like they cared.
At least they fought during most games and lost at the bitter end. Sure, Seifert sucked in his last year here, but there was never a point in that season when I wished that any one of the other 31 teams was my team.
Now? I'm not so sure. My allegiance to the Panthers has been pledged and will never change, no matter what, but right now it is downright painful to sport the black, blue, and silver that I and many others were proud to display.
The bye week in the NFL is normally a time for teams to take a bit of a mini vacation in the middle of the season. The players spend some time with their families or in the community, practices are light, and injuries are allowed some time to heal.
For the Panthers, they will lick their wounds and endure a relentless flurry of anger and disgust from both the local media and the fans.
Beason should heal up some, Chris Harris should be ready to go after the bye, and perhaps some soul searching for a week will do this team good. The only chance that the Panthers have, realistically, is to win their first three games out of the bye.
They face Washington, Tampa Bay, and Buffalo in those three before the schedule kicks into fifth gear and they spend the rest of their season in a street fight.
The good news for Panthers fans is that I can guarantee the team won't lose this weekend. The bad news just keeps coming.
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