Steve Smith couldn't save the Panthers (four receptions for 70 yards) today. Neither could Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Jake Delhomme, Muhsin Muhammad, DJ Hackett ,nor anybody else.
Today was a lesson for the Panthers as a whole. A lot of offensive mistakes, poor coaching decisions, and a tired defense less than halfway through the game makes for a long day.
The Panthers welcomed Steve Smith back to the lineup and he, along with DJ Hackett, and Muhsin Muhammad had their share of mistakes in a game seemingly plagued with penalties and delayed reaction calls by officials.
Credit will not be denied to the Vikings however.
Minnesota utilized both Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor while dominating the running game. By halftime the Vikings offense had the Panthers defense right where they wanted them, and that's where Gus Frerotte's passing game began to take shape and whittle a little more effectiveness off the Panthers defense.
The Vikings defense also took advantage of what was given to them, getting five sacks on QB Jake Delhomme and pretty much stopping the Panthers' progress in the second half.
The Panthers offensive line made some real careless mistakes—Jeff Otah, rookie out of University of Pittsburgh had two false-start penalties called against him, and veteran guard Jordan Gross also had a false-start called on him.
The Panthers defense had a couple good things going today; Chris Gamble played a solid game, getting one interception midway through the first half which moved him into second-place in team history with 18 interceptions, while Julius Peppers had a break-out day as he had his best game of the season, finishing with three tackles, three quarterback hurries and one sack.
As I see it, this is a team that will rebound from an early loss, and going into a division game against the Falcons it's much better that it happened this week than against a division team.
Hopefully Carolina will collectively be on the same page for next week's game. Minnesota was a good test to show where the Panthers' weaknesses lie, and this team has the talent and drive to correct the problems from this loss.
I know I'm putting the cart before the horse, but I will say it anyway. This early in the season, it is better for the Panthers or any team in the league to take their lumps early in the season even if it means a loss than to take that dose of reality late if you need a win, or during the playoffs.
This loss should bring everything into perspective for Carolina, especially for the organization but to us fans as well. Let's hope to see improvement to a greater degree by next Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons.