There are a few things in this world that scare the bejesus out of me – snakes, clowns, lightning striking my house and frying my Playstation again, that flippin’ Paranormal Activity movie, and the thought of having another 2-14 season (or worse). A mere three weeks ago, I watched a Carolina Panther team that had me feeling rejuvenated and looking ahead to the future. Today, I sit here wondering if we are headed into a “suck for Luck” campaign. I haven’ been this shaken up since, well, the earthquake on Wednesday. Granted, it is only preseason and probably a little premature to be having nightmares of Cam Newton chasing me around in a red and green sweater with a razor blade gloves, but I am still concerned none-the-less. (By the way, how creepy is that? Cam with that big smile rocking the garbs Robert Englund made famous – I’m getting chills just typing it right now, but I digress.)
So let’s take a look at what has me shaking in my boots. So far, in the past two preseason games against the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals the Panthers have looked below-average at best. Two teams that most experts are predicting to finish at the bottom of their respective divisions have given it to us rather handedly. At no point during either of these two games did I feel like the Panthers had any type of control over the game. The problems all start at the line, where both the offensive and defensive lines have looked absolutely lost out there. A long time ago a coach told me the key to winning football game is blocking and tackling (this won’t be the last time you hear me mention this concept). If you can get those two things down, everything else will fall into place. Unfortunately, we are failing to get either one of them done.
Want to hear a stat that will make Jason Voorhees seem like a cuddly bunny? So far this preseason we have given up an average of 145 yards a game on the ground. A Panther team that used to pride itself on tough defense and stopping the run allowed 191 yards rushing to the Bengals and 164 to the Dolphins. We made Reggie Bush and Cedric Benson look like Walter-freaking-Payton out there. If that keeps up, you fantasy freaks should be sure to circle your calendars for October 30 when “All Day” Adrian Peterson comes to town, because he is going to carve us up like Mr. Voorhees would carve up two sexually-charged teenagers hanging out at Camp Crystal Lake.
On the other side of the ball things weren’t much better. The blocking repeatedly broke down, leaving Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen on the run and resulting in the Bengal defense racking up three sacks and six hits on the quarterback duo. Someone should check the offensive lines’ cleats and make sure they weren’t wearing roller skates, because the Bengals absolutely owned our line. We only managed 108 yards rushing. When you look at that stat it doesn’t seem that horrifying, but when you take away Cam Newton’s rushing yards (49), 26 of which came on a run where the receivers couldn’t get open and he had to just take off down the field, our running backs only put up 59 yards. DeAngelo Williams showed sparks at times, but Jonathan Stewart looked miserable. Stewart finished the game 8 for 13 averaging 1.6 yards a carry. Stats like that will have you shrieking like scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween.
Another performance deserving of a Scream award (an award given to excellence in the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres – who knew?) goes to Chris Gamble for his portrayal as the Predator. Gamble was burned several times in the night before leaving the game before halftime with an injury. On one occasion, Gamble was beaten badly for a big gain, but he was bailed out by a challenge resulting in the receiver being ruled out of bounds. A couple of series later, Andy Dalton threw his way again, and the result of his shoddy coverage was an A.J. Green touchdown. It felt like Gamble absolutely disappeared at times. Maybe they will come out with some Danny Glover bio-thermal glasses so I can actually see if Chris “Predator” Gamble is out there covering anybody.
Nothing is worse than a losing season from the Panthers. That Monday morning hangover is worse to deal with. You hate turning on the television to see Carolina highlights on “C’mon Man” instead of “Plays of the Week.” Charlotte and the surrounding area is far more fun when the Panthers are winning, and for a guy who bases his whole life around having fun a bad Panther team is bone-chilling. We still have another pre-season game to turn things around, but if we don’t, Eugene Robinson and Mick Mixon might start sounding like Vincent Price at the beginning of the Thriller video to me.