It’s been a long year for Carolina Panther fans and the team. It is very hard to see any good in all the bad that has happened. From the trade during April’s Draft that sent a second round pick to New England for Armanti Edwards, to Matt Moore showing he learned a little too much from Jake Delhomme.
I was even surprised when I looked back at the year Carolina had and saw that there even was a good moment. I had to dig deep, but I found some moments that many will agree were highlights for the Panthers.
Without further adieu, I give you the faint light in Carolina’s dark season.
This was not necessarily a good moment, especially for Charles Godfrey, but it was memorable. Peyton Hillis looked like he was in a Madden game and on that goal line play he lowered his shoulder and Hillis left tire marks on Godfrey when as he rolled over him for a touchdown.
The Panthers may have lost the game because of a late miss by kicker John Kasay, but it was probably the most complete game the Panthers had all year besides the Arizona game. Mike Goodson and Jonathan Stewart ran the ball very well, the offense used screens, and the pass defense was good.
This was also Clausen’s best game because he managed the game well. Even when he threw the interception late in the fourth quarter, he came back and drove the Panthers into field goal range. His ability to manage the game had been sub-par before that game and at the time I was hoping he would build off that performance and go deep more often.
This was another loss for the Panthers, but Clausen played well in that game and the team, as a whole, clicked. The Panthers scored two touchdowns for the first time all season that game. They ran the ball very well and Clausen did well in the passing game.
The defense was especially good that game. The Panthers defense held the Saints to 13 points for the majority of the game and, like most of the year, they were not responsible for all 13 points. John Fox showed that the Saints might be difficult for other teams, but for the Panthers the Saints were just someone Carolina had to put back into line.
After the Saints went up 16-14, Clausen almost did a Jake Delhomme impression. He drove them down the field to the edge of Kasay’s range. All they needed was another five yards. Unfortunately, DeAngelo Williams tried a cutback and was smothered in the backfield for a four yard loss, and then Clausen was sacked for another four yard loss. The Panthers had to go for it on 4th and 16 and they couldn’t get the job done.
This game showed that maybe Clausen was a good choice and that with some more experience he could be the franchise quarterback.
The future of Carolina’s secondary may be uncertain, but strong safety is no longer a problem for the Panthers. Charles Godfrey has had a great season, minus being run over by Hillis, and showed that he may be the next Chris Harris just with better hands.
Godfrey has two interceptions the first game against the Giants and continued to be a force in the secondary. He now has five interceptions and is one of the best in that category.
He costs $15 million less and has 3.5 more sacks, his name is Charles Johnson. Johnson had been Julius Peppers’ understudy for the last few years and had always showed potential. This year he really broke out of his shell.
By the end of the Steelers game, Charles Johnson added two more sacks and surpassed his career total of 10.5 sacks. Johnson now has 11.5 sacks with one game left, Peppers only has 8. I understand that Peppers does face double teams more often, but this is a great start. Johnson has provided the only pass rush Carolina has generated all year. Just imagine what he’ll be able to do once the Panthers get some better defensive tackles and when either Everette Brown or Greg Hardy breakout. The line may soon be back to the standard the panthers have created over the years.
One of the more memorable moments of this season came in the 4th quarter of the Browns game. Brandon LaFell made a great one-handed catch on a pass thrown by Clausen near the sideline. This set up the Panthers for a game winning field goal opportuinty.
LaFell, a third round pick out of LSU, has had a decent rookie season. What he has shown is that he can make make a big play and that he is reliable in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, he only shows up in the
final quarter and not the first three. If he can work on catching the ball better and show up for the whole
game, what a receiver he could become no matter who the quarterback.
The biggest surprise this season has been receiver David Gettis, a sixth round pick out of Baylor. His best game and the best game by any Panthers receiver came against San Francisco. Matt Moore was quarterback and he quickly had a connection with Gettis. Gettis had 125 yards receiving with 2 touchdowns, one coming after he dropped a touchdown earlier in the game.
Gettis showed he can be a great deep threat as the former track star constantly burned the 49ers secondary. At 6”3, Gettis is not only fast but a big target. He heads the future of Carolina’s receiving corps.
“You never forget your first.” Isn’t that what they always say?
The Panthers didn’t get their first win until the sixth game of the season. It was Matt Moore’s first game since being benched for Clausen. He threw for over 300 yards that game and it was the last time the Panthers had anything remotely close to a passing game.
The game was not decisive in any way. In fact, after a Moore interception for a touchdown, it seemed like the game would end just like the last five. Then, Moore decided the game was not over. He led the Panthers on an 8 play 63 yard touchdown drive where he hit Gettis for the touchdown. The drive only took 2:37 off the clock. Afterwards, the always reliable David Carr did what he does best, throw interceptions. With about a minute left, Richard Marshall intercepted Carr and the Panthers drove 38 yards for what would be the game winning field goal.
This was a huge game as it guaranteed Carolina would not join Detroit in the history books. Also, it gave hope that the offense may finally join the rest of the NFL in being a productive one.
If Carolina was going to have a bad football season, they mind as well go all the way with it and have the #1 pick. It’s almost like a really good consolation prize. With the wins by the Bengals and Broncos, the Panthers officially became the worst team in the NFL. This is memorable because it is the first time since our inaugural season that we’ve had the first pick.
After the season Carolina had, fans should look at this as a good thing. Every scenario leads to the Panthers getting a whole lot better. If the Panthers draft Andrew Luck, we will have a guy being compared to Peyton Manning. If we draft A.J. Green, we will have the best receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson and he will be the next Steve Smith. If we draft Marcel Dareus or Nick Fairley then our run defense will be much improved. Even if we trade out of the first pick we’ll be in really good shape because not only will we get one of these players to fulfill our needs, we will also get more draft picks.
Carolina would have to try hard in order to have a bad draft.
There’s one guy who turned this franchise around. He led them to a Super Bowl and multiple division titles. He also had never led the panthers to worse than an average 7-9 record before this year. John Fox is the greatest coach in our history and I imagine he will be for some time.
The most memorable moment of 2010 belongs to the win against the Cardinals. It was John Fox’s final home game and a win would guarantee Fox finish with a winning record as Head Coach for the Panthers. This was the Panthers most dominant performance of the year, even though they still had trouble scoring touchdowns. The Panthers sent out Fox with a win won in the style Fox preached since day 1. They ran the ball effectively and played lights out defense. It was a great tribute to Fox as he would get a win for his final home game and his final quarterback would get his first win.
It was a very rough year for the Panthers, but winning Fox’s final home game was the best gift they could give.