By Ted Fleming
Eli and Peyton Manning have more in common than just being brothers who play the same position at the highest level of football. The Giants, Eli’s team, thumped the Panthers by 29-points in Week 3 while the Broncos, led by Peyton, whacked them by 22 on Sunday. It’s enough to make everyone in the Carolinas–not to mention Cat’s players and coaches–wake up in a cold sweat.
It was rather ugly at Bank of American Stadium. It started well with Cam Newton hitting six straight passes which, by the way, he had never done in his short career, and the team scored a touchdown on their second possession. By the time they got around to getting TD number two, they were already down 29-7 with 5:09 remaining in the contest. The Broncos scored in just about every way possible, including two field goals, a 76-yard punt return, a pick-six, and, to complete the embarrassment, Cam Newton was sacked in the end zone for a safety.
The loss to the Broncos drops the Panthers to 2-7, which is bad enough until you look at how they got there. The two Manning games were blowouts, but the other five were lost by 18 points – combined. But that still does not excuse the way they were manhandled by Peyton and Company.
Carolina has lost five of their last six and unless the rest of the NFC South somehow lands on Gilligan’s Island for the rest of the season, any talk of making the playoffs has officially been muted and it is time to begin thinking of where they will wind up in the 2013 NFL Draft and who will be in camp when it opens next July.
Here is the postmortem of the Week 10 disaster.
Coaching: It is hard to know what Ron Rivera could have done to avoid this debacle because the Broncos are hitting their stride at the right time. It was not like former Panthers’ boss John Fox outcoached Rivera, he didn’t have to because as long as you have an upright Peyton Manning, he can pick apart anyone. If there is one continuing theme for Carolina in 2012 it is having two very expensive running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and in this game they were handed the ball just six and eight times, respectively. That is not taking the pressure off Cam Newton, it is adding to it. Grade: C-
Quarterback: Try as he might, Cam Newton didn’t have a chance. The only hope for the Panthers was for the 23-year-old to go head-to-head with a future Hall of Famer and hope he could get one more point on the board than Peyton Manning. Carolina is not built that way, and miracles only happen in the movies or for the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team. The numbers are not all that bad – 21/36, 241-yards, 2 TDs, 2 INT – but Newton was pressured all afternoon and spent a lot of time with his face stuck in the turf after being sacked numerous times. Grade: D
Offense: Yawn. If it wasn’t for Greg Olsen there might have been one big goose-egg on the scoreboard. All the tight end did was catch nine of the ten passes that came his way for a total of 102-yards and he had both Carolina touchdowns. The ground game took another week off with 21 combined rushes for a disappointing 52-yards and a 2.5 average. Want more? Seven times the offense was three-and-out and on third-down, how about Oh-for-12. Last and very much the least was the offensive line who did absolutely nothing to open up holes much less protect Cam Newton as he was dumped on his fanny seven times and gave up ten tackles for a loss. Grade: F
Defense: Charles Johnson did something that has happened just ten times before Sunday – sack Peyton Manning. Unfortunately the rest of the defense had little effect on the not-so-mobile 36-year old. In fact, Manning was credited with three rushes, one going for six-yards and every time someone in the black uniforms got close, he would simply step up or slide out of the pocket to complete 27 of 38 passes. They gave up 360-yards of offense although they did limit the Denver running game to just 65 of that total. Grade D-
Notables: Peyton Manning’s first quarter touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley was the 420th of his amazing career tying him for the second-most in NFL history with Dan Marino behind Brett Favre’s 508. Manning also tied Marino for the most regular season victories with 147.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.