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‘Gamers & Lamers’ in Panthers Vs. Saints Week 17 Game: Fan’s Analysis
And thus concludes the 2011 Carolina Panthers season, a year that was as awesome as it was frustrating. Awesome for the reinvigorated offense, Cam Newton's spectacular play, and Rob Chudzinski's innovative game planning. Frustrating because of the injuries, shoddy defense, and late-game collapses that plagued the team at the beginning of the season. In Week 17 the Panthers porous defense was exposed by the electric New Orleans Saints offense, giving up 45 points in an uninspired loss to finish the year 6-10.
While the NFL post game shows cover the scoring plays, I look for the less visible but equally crucial plays that sustain drives, spring the big plays, or change momentum. Here is my analysis, as a Panthers fan, of these key plays, both good ("The Gamers") and bad ("The Lamers") that took place during Carolina's Week 17 loss to New Orleans.
13:29, Sherrod Martin, S - Lamer. Score tied 0-0, NO ball on CAR 35. The Saints opened the game with gains of 5, 18, and 22 yards on the first three plays of the game. On 1st-and-10 Drew Brees lined up behind center with RB Chris Ivory deep behind him. Ivory took a simple handoff to the left against a Panthers 4-3 defense with Sherrod Martin lined up 13 yards off the line of scrimmage as safety. The Saints offensive line opened a huge hole for Ivory who went untouched into the secondary. Martin was lined up very deep and the play was a simple run, but Martin took a terrible angle as he closed in on Ivory and failed to even get a hand on the Saints running back as he motored 35-yards untouched for a score and an early 7-0 New Orleans lead.
11:01, Cam Newton, QB - Gamer. Panthers trail 0-7, CAR ball on CAR 44. Facing a long 1st-and15 following a Carolina penalty, Cam Newton lined up in shotgun. Newton took the snap and dropped back to pass and was immediately pressured from his right. Cam stepped up to avoid the pressure then tucked the ball to run. Newton made a nice cut to avoid CB Tracy Porter to gain 16-yards and a first down, extending a drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith to tie the game at 7-7.
2:56, James Anderson, LB - Lamer. Score tied 7-7, NO ball on CAR 15. Drew Brees dropped back to pass in the red zone as the Panthers went zone coverage. LB James Anderson dropped into coverage in the deep-middle of the field, shadowing WR Marques Colston on a slant route. Anderson allowed Colston to slip behind him, leaving Anderson covering nobody and Colston just open enough for Drew Brees to zip a touchdown pass to him over Anderson's head. The Saints would take their 14-7 lead into the second quarter.
13:47, Cam Newton, QB - Lamer. Panthers trail 7-14, CAR ball on NO 4. The Panthers had 2nd-and-3 from the Saints 4 yard line with a ton of momentum after ripping off plays for 14, 13, 14, and 20 yards. Cam Newton lined up in shotgun, took the snap, and took two steps forward as if to run a draw. Newton then stopped and floated a pass about 15 feet in the air to a double-covered Steve Smith in the back of the end zone. The pass was several feet behind Smith and was picked off by CB Patrick Robinson, costing the Panthers what should have been a touchdown, or at least a field goal. This interception was a huge momentum killer for the Panthers.
8:33, R.J. Stanford, CB - Gamer. Panthers trail 7-14, NO ball on CAR 19. New Orleans was once again in the red zone on a long drive in what looked like would result in their third score in three drives. On 2nd-and-9 Drew Brees threw a pass down the left sideline to Darren Sproles. Stanford read the pass, broke on the throw, and intercepted the pass. Stanford returned the pick 53 yards down to the New Orleans 36 yard line, setting up a 41-yard Olindo Mare field goal and reducing the Panthers deficit to 10-14.
2:57, Charles Godfrey - S, Gamer. Panthers trail 10-14, NO ball on CAR 25. Again nearing the red zone, Drew Brees dropped back to pass on 2nd-and-7. Charles Godfrey ended up in coverage on TE Jimmy Graham, a very difficult one-on-one coverage assignment, who ran a post pattern inside the 10 yard line. Godfrey stuck tightly on Graham and broke underneath the route to deflect the pass. The Saints failed to convert on third down and had to settle for a field goal, pushing their lead to 17-10.
1:25, Travelle Wharton, G - Gamer. Panthers trail 10-17, CAR ball on NO 29. The Panthers were running the hurry-up offense trying to score before the half. On 1st-and-10 Cam Newton lined up in shotgun with Jonathan Stewart to his left. Stewart took a handoff to the right as left guard Travelle Wharton pulled and sealed LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, opening a huge hole for Stewart. Jonathan Stewart went untouched for a 29-yard touchdown, tying the game at 17-17.
:16, Sherrod Martin, S - Lamer. Score tied 17-17, NO ball on CAR 42. With no timeouts left Drew Brees dropped back to pass before the end of the half. Marques Colston ran a simple streak down the right sideline as Drew Brees relaxed in the pocket and looked deep the entire play. Safety Sherrod Martin committed one of the worst plays of the year as he got caught spying into the backfield and let Colston simply slip right past him for a 42-yard touchdown reception in the end zone. Martin ended up not covering anybody on the egregiously awful play. Martin's blown coverage was so bad that ESPN's Greg Easterbrook, author of the excellent Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, gave Martin the award for Worst Play of the Year - So Far. The Saints cheap touchdown gave them momentum a 24-17 halftime lead, opening the floodgates to a second half onslaught against the Panthers.
8:59, James Anderson, LB - Lamer. Panthers trail 17-24, NO ball on CAR 19. Facing a 2nd-and-19 in the red zone, Drew Brees dropped back to pass as TE Jimmy Graham ran a post against a 4-3 Carolina defense. James Anderson dropped into coverage and shadowed Graham, but allowed the Saints explosive TE to get behind him, allowing Drew Brees to throw the ball over Anderson's head for a touchdown. Anderson's poor coverage against Graham was nearly identical to his poor coverage against Marques Colston yielding a Saints touchdown earlier in the game. Anderson's blown coverage put the Panthers in a 17-31 hole in a game that was quickly slipping away.
7:23, Cam Newton, QB - Lamer. Panthers trail 17-31, CAR ball on CAR 18. After a Panthers three-and-out Cam Newton sulked his way back to the huddle, blowing off coaches and teammates, and covered his head with a towel while throwing a me-first pity party on the bench. While I am completely on the Can Newton bandwagon and have enjoyed watching him break records (including becoming in this game the first player in NFL history with 4,000 passing and 500 rushing yards in one season), it is this petulant, selfish side of Newton that still greatly concerns me. Look at the QB's who have recently won Super Bowls - Rodgers, Brees, Big Ben, the Mannings - these guys do not isolate themselves from their teammates when things go wrong. They talk with their offensive linemen, consult with coaches, get on the same page with receivers, and pour over overhead photos of the defensive coverage schemes. Cam, on the other hand, puts a towel over his head and scowls. This is not leadership. It is childish and divisive and needs to end.
6:23, Steve Smith, WR - Lamer. Panthers trail 17-45, CAR ball on CAR 30. After a catch-and-run, Steve Smith lost a careless fumble which was recovered by the Saints. With the game already a blowout, the rest of the contest was an exercise in running plays, keeping the clock moving, and ensuring nobody got hurt.
Andrew Sweat is a North Carolina resident and loyal Panthers fan. More from this author:
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