The Carolina Panthers have played exactly sixty minutes of football in 2012 and somehow the season already feels doomed.
All of the pent-up offseason Panthers hype was supposed to explode in Week 1 with a convincing road victory over their NFC South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Things definitely exploded for the Panthers in Week 1, but the explosion was more like that of a train wreck than a fireworks celebration.
Carolina lost 16-10 to Tampa Bay in a lifeless, sloppy, sometimes boring display of football mediocrity. If the Panthers keep playing like they did in Week 1, the season is already over. Here is why:
The Offensive Play of the Offensive Line
What makes me feel more doom than anything was the Panthers' complete inability to run the football.
In Week 1 the Panthers ran 13 times for a total of 10 yards.
DeAngelo Williams alone rushed six times for -1 yards. Yeesh!
But this is not because DeAngelo suddenly forgot how to run - he simply had nowhere to go.
Carolina's offensive line was completely dominated by a seemingly average Tampa Bay front four.
The failure of the O-line was also seen in the passing game as Cam Newton was regularly forced to throw off his back foot while backpedaling in a collapsing pocket.
If the Panthers' offensive line cannot get the job done against a team like the Bucs, Carolina will be looking at another 6-10 type season.
A Blown Opportunity
The Panthers entered their Week 1 game as 2.5-point road favorites over the Bucs.
When a team is favored to win a divisional matchup on the road, they have to convert.
The always unpredictable NFC South is up for grabs this year. The New Orleans Saints had a turbulent offseason and lost their Week 1 game against the Washington Redskins. Tampa Bay is rebuilding. The Atlanta Falcons look like Super Bowl contenders but have a history of late-season collapses.
The Panthers lost a winnable Week 1 road game to a divisional rival, wasting a golden opportunity to compete in the NFC South.
The Blocked Punt
Carolina's special teams were downright abysmal last year.
To fix the problem the Panthers invested a 2012 fourth round pick in return man Joe Adams, a sixth round pick in punter Brad Nortman, and signed kicker Justin Medlock to replace Olindo Mare.
So how did the special teams respond in Week 1?
They responded by giving up a huge blocked punt with 11:19 left in the fourth quarter of a one possession game.
The blocked punt put the Buccaneers in position to kick a field goal, pushing their lead to 16-7.
Special teams can singlehandedly lose games, and the Week 1 blocked punt is a bad omen for what is to come in the rest of the season.
From "Boom" to "Doom"
This 2012 season was supposed to be a boom year for the Carolina Panthers.
But an ugly loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have already turned the young season from boom to doom.
If the Panthers offensive line and special team continue to play like they did in Week 1, 2012 will be a long, disappointing season.
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Panthers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles: