Saturday night’s preseason game was the breath of fresh air the Charlotte football fans needed. The Panthers outplayed the Giants in basically every aspect of the game on offense, defense and special teams. As a fan, the biggest difference this year is when the Panthers line up, you get the feeling that we have a chance to win. At no point in last year’s season did I ever feel that way. The question was never “are we going to lose?” but “how bad are we going to look doing it?”
The stadium had a whole different feel to it Saturday night. Panthers football became fun to watch again. When Cam Newton entered the game in the second quarter, there was a huge pop from the crowd. I haven’t seen a reaction like that for anything Carolina has done in two years. Even before getting a snap, you just got this feeling that there is something special about this guy. He is a winner, and he is going to find a way to make a play. Cam had a couple of good plays, along with a couple of questionable passes, but we all expect there to be growing pains.
Greg Olsen is another name that announcers should get used to saying. He showed a lot of talent on the field, and as a fan we got to see something we haven’t seen from the Panthers in a while – a pass-catching tight end. Olsen had a great connection with both Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen. I don’t think it matters who lines up under center – Olsen can just flat-out play. You have to give props to Marty Hurney for making that trade happen for only a third round pick. The addition of Olsen as a threat is only going to make Steve Smith better when he returns – defenses won’t be able to simply single out Smitty.
While I am giving out thumbs-ups, congrats to the coaching staff. Ron Rivera and the boys just simply coach a more entertaining type of football. This new offensive philosophy was great to see. We spread the ball around, moved up and down the field, and didn’t just sit on a win. At the end of the second quarter when we ran a two-minute drill resulting in a field goal, I knew we were no longer watching Fox-ball. Last year we would have been content with running the clock out and heading into the locker room with a tie. I am not sure if John Fox knows what a two-minute drill is – or a time out for that matter either.
Another highlight of the game was the better use of Armanti Edwards. I don’t know if Edwards has just gotten better in the off season or if we are just better utilizing his talents now, but whatever the reason it was nice to see him actually contribute. Another guy to keep your eye on is Kealoha Pilares (I’m glad I’m writing this and not saying it – I am sure I would have butchered that). His touchdown catch from Derek Anderson looked great, and I think he will be able to contribute to the wide receiver race that has really not been decided yet.
On a side note, another great moment from the game was one most people didn’t see. It happened when my friend paid eight dollars for a poncho, which was really nothing more than a trash bag with holes in it. When he tried to put it on, he attempted to put his head through one of the arm holes, and proceeded to rip a gigantic hole in the side of the very thin layer of plastic. This left his whole side to get completely drenched for the better part of the first half. This, along with his constant complaining about the wasted money, brought me great amusement.
While the game was just a preseason game and we shouldn’t read too much into it, the new Panthers have made football in Charlotte fun to watch once more. The whole city has been buzzing with football fever, and we can be once again be proud Panthers fans.