Heading into the season, the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t have been further apart in expectations for the season. The Eagles, with a strong core in place, added several big-name free agents in the off season, prompting backup quarterback Vince Young to refer to them as a dream team. With many picking Philly to go to the Super Bowl, the question wasn’t how many games they could win – it was who could beat them? The Panthers heading into the season were starting rookie quarterback Cam Newton, had an all new coaching staff under Ron Rivera, and were coming off a 2-14 season. After four weeks, both teams sit at 1-3.
Sunday, the Carolina Panthers lost 29-34 to the Chicago Bears. The Panthers struggled at times stopping the run, giving up 205 yards to Matt Forte. They also had some questionable special teams play, giving up a punt return for a touchdown and another long kick return that set up another touchdown. Offensively they showed signs of greatness – Cam Newton had another nice game with 374 yards and a touchdown passing, while also adding two more TDs on the ground. The running game seemed to get back on track, with DeAngelo Williams showing signs of life with 82 yards on the ground, and 169 yards rushing as a team. Even though it was still a loss, there was never a time when the game felt out of reach – a far cry from the Panthers of last year. There was a lot the team has to build off of.
Philadelphia started off hot in the first half. Their defense was able to hold San Francisco to a field goal before half time. Michael Vick actually looked like the Vick we have been looking for all season – he finished the game with 416 yards passing, two touchdowns, and led the Eagles in rushing with 75 yards. If I were to tell you Vick had stats like that ending the game, you would have to say they won, right? Wrong. The Eagles led 20-3 at half time. They were able to add another field goal in the third quarter to take a 20 point lead. That’s when things fell apart – San Francisco was able to score 21 unanswered to pull off the come-from-behind win. Alex Smith finished the game with 291 yards passing and two touchdowns, while Frank Gore, who many thought was bruised up this week, added 127 yards and a touchdown rushing. The Niners advanced to 3-1.
These are two teams at 1-3, but they are having completely different seasons so far. The Panthers show promise and seem to be improving in many areas. In all three of their losses, the Panthers have been in the game and had chances to win in the end. Good teams win close games in the end, and this is something the Panthers will have to improve on if they want to be a playoff team in the future. The Eagles in all three of their losses have had the lead heading into the fourth quarter. This is s team that is clearly not clicking on all cylinders, and for a team that many picked to win the Super Bowl, they have dug themselves into a hole in their own division. So from a fan perspective, I feel much better as a Panther fan. If the Panthers are able to win seven more games throughout the season and go 8-8, I will consider this season a success. If the Eagles win seven more games, they won’t win the NFC East and probably don’t make the playoffs at 8-8, making their dream team season an epic fail.
Week 4 marked a number of interesting games and a few more comebacks, so here are some notes from around the rest of the NFL.
- The Buffalo Bills lost their first game of the season in another comeback game. The Cincinnati Bengals were down 17-3 at half before Andy Dalton, with his 298 yards and a touchdown passing, was able to run one in to seal the win.
- The Bills will face the earlier mentioned Eagles next week, making for a very interesting matchup. I don’t even think green man could pull the Eagles out of a 1-4 hole.
- One of the other undefeated teams heading into the week, the Detroit Lions, were on the other side of the comeback. With the Dallas Cowboys leading 27-3 in the third quarter, the Lions returned two Tony Romo interceptions for touchdowns. Follow that up with a couple of Calvin Johnson scores and the Lions advance to 4-0.
- Earlier in the week, Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said Calvin Johnson would be the third best receiver on the Cowboys. I wonder where he would rank Lions cornerback Chris Houston and linebacker Bobby Carpenter – Romo seemed to like throwing it to them.
- The final undefeated team, the Green Bay Packers, made easy work of the Denver Broncos, winning 49-23. Aaron Rodgers threw 408 yards with four touchdowns and then decided he wanted to add another two touchdowns rushing.
- During the preseason I was quite impressed with the handle bar mustache Aaron Rodgers was sporting. I was hoping he would keep it throughout the season – unfortunately he didn’t. I guess if you have a 6 touchdown day you can do what you want. Either way, Aaron Rodger is one bad mother… shut your mouth… just talking bout Stashe.
- Pittsburgh continued to struggle with protecting Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers are now 2-2, and if they can’t find someone to block the question isn’t whether or not the Steelers make the playoffs, it’s if they can keep Big Ben alive for the rest of the season.
- The Texans improved to 3-1, and after getting Arian Foster back, they lost Andre Johnson in this game. If they ever get fully healthy this could be a scary team in the AFC
- The Tennessee Titans were able to beat the Cleveland Browns 31-13. I would like to welcome Chris Johnson back – after three miserable weeks he was able to break 100 yards rushing this week.
- Kansas City beat Minnesota 22-17 and nobody cares.
- The Washington Redskins were able to hold off a late surge from St. Louis, winning 17-7 behind Ryan “going off the rails on a crazy” Torain, who rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown.
- New Orleans capped off the win 23-10 against Jacksonville. John Kasay had three second half field goals, as the Saints weren’t able to find the end zone in the second half. I’ll be interested to see how the crowd reacts to Kasay when he returns to Carolina Sunday.
- The New York Giants were able to come back and beat the Arizona Cardinals. Victor Cruz had a strange play where he left the ball sitting on the field before being touched. The refs ruled that he had given himself up there, and that he was down and had not fumbled. I have never heard of this rule, and it sounded strange to me. After that Eli Manning threw the go-ahead touchdown to Hakeem Nicks for the win, 31-27.
- Atlanta was able to avoid a near comeback from the Seattle Seahawks. Atlanta nearly blew a 17 point lead, but in the end they won 30-28. If the Falcons couldn’t keep Seattle from putting up 28, it could be a long day next Sunday when Green Bay comes to the Georgia Dome.
- New England beat Oakland 31-19 behind their running game, which compiled 183 yards. Yeah, you read that right – the running game of the Patriots. They have one, who knew?
- The Chargers beat the Miami Dolphins 26-16. No big surprise here. I am just wondering if Dolphin head coach can survive the week 5 bye without getting fired.
- The Sunday night game was a wild one, with Baltimore out-defensing the Jets 34-17. Out of the six touchdowns scored in this game, only one of them was actually scored by the offense. Every other touchdown came off of a defensive turnover or from special teams.
- Quick note to NBC – when the refs make a questionable call, you may not want to go close up on Rex Ryan. Now I don’t read lips professionally, but I know an expletive when I see one. Think of the kids. I think the Jets should sign a deal with HBO – sort of like what Notre Dame has with NBC – then every game go and mike up Rex Ryan. This way it actually will make the Jets entertaining this year, and it won’t offend anyone – because it’s not TV, it’s HBO.
- The Monday Night Football game turned out to be a better one than some people thought. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-17. Curtis Painter looked good in his NFL debut going 13/30 for 281 yards and two touchdowns, but he wasn’t able to come away with the win. A late LeGarrette Blount touchdown sealed it for the Bucs.