Monday, December 29, 2008

Week 17: NFC South Champs

Brethren: The last game of the regular season provided just as much drama as you would expect from a team that can't shake its "Cardiac Cats" moniker. Leading 30-10 going into the final quarter, the Carolina Panthers promptly gave up 21 straight points to a humming pass-happy New Orleans offense, and found themselves down 31-30. New Orleans' only problem was they left over 3 minutes on the clock to a team that knows how to run a two-minute offense.

Either that, or Steve Smith did his Superman bailout thing again. On the first play of the potential game-winning drive, Jake Delhomme bought time in a pocket that was quickly collapsing, and as he was about to get nailed by two defenders, heaved a jump ball downfield towards a double-teamed Smitty. Result: another amazing catch by Smitty, a clock-killing drive, and a John Kasay field goal that wrapped up a 33-31 win, the NFC South championship, and the #2 seed in the NFC for the playoffs.

I shouldn't be surprised by Steve Smith anymore, but I am. He fought over two defenders, secured the ball, and made my life a lot more happy. He's just unreal. He did this against Green Bay earlier this year, and he's done it countless times in his career as a Panther. I thank my lucky stars for Steve Smith every Sunday.

So in a game that almost quick-sanded away, the Carolina Panthers eeked one out, and established a 12-4 record on the season for just the second time in team history.

One more thing before we get to our more ramblingish thoughts: on Christmas Day, I gave myself the pleasure of re-reading the Carolina Panthers preview that the Sports Brethren wrote for Deadspin. I don't mention this to toot our own horns (because, seriously, we pretty much nailed every aspect of that preview), but just to remember where this season started. It's far from over, but it was good to reflect. As this blog has become exceedingly Panther-specific, I can't imagine a better season for us to do it.

More thoughts, desde:

Brethren (cont'd): For the final time this regular season, the patented, bulleted Brethren thoughts:

- There's no way John Fox would ever admit to this, but I kinda saw this fourth quarter lead give-away and reclamation as exactly how I would do it if I were playing a video game. After going three and out as New Orleans had made it a six point game by effortlessly scoring two passing touchdowns, wouldn't you at least entertain purposefully shanking a punt so you can give the other team a short field to work with, give them the TD, the lead, and leave enough time on the clock to make the game-winning drive? I mean, in a video game, that scenario definitely goes through my mind. Now, knowing the Silver Fox, I can guarantee this is NOT what he was thinking. But it worked out all the same, huh?

- Another fantastic day by Smash N Dash. DeAngelo set the single-season record for a Carolina Panthers running back and capped a break-out season by cranking out 178 dagger-to-the-heart yards, and several big ones on the last drive. Stewart had one ridiculous run where he was stuffed by five guys in the backfield, never went down, and bounced outside for a dozen yards -- and he had a solid touchdown run.

- The Panthers coaching staff's propensity to go conservative on offense with a lead two weeks in a rows scares the shit out of me. I will be so pissed if that's the reason our season ends in the playoffs, because at this point, it's just become so predictable.

- With that said, I love that we won and got the bye week. Should be enough time to get our big boys in the middle of our D-Line back and prepare for the first playoff game in Charlotte since 2003. Whichever meek bird we're playing, I know damn well the Queen City will be rocking.

Fuck. and. yes.

Nacho: On Saturday night the SportsCousin, aka Trey, walked up to spend the night at my place and before saying hello or anything, he asked "Do you think there should be seeded playoffs?" Sure, we hadn't seen each other in over a week, and the last time we were supposed to see one another was when Trey didn't pick me up and take me to the airport, the Pats could miss the playoffs with one less win than the Panthers, and this is a legitimate question with a great debate behind it. Should a team like the Cardinals or Chargers get to the post season over a team with a better record? Trey and I both decided that yes, the playoffs should be seeded. Trey said when he brought this up to his coworkers, their first complaint was "What if you win your division and don't get in?"

We decided that Division Champs is good for breaking tie breaks, but should not guarantee a post season berth. The more I think about it, I find it odd that I took this stance so willingly, but it's true. The NFC South was the best division in pro football this year by leaps and bounds. It speaks volumes that yesterday, when the Panthers beat the Saints, was the first time all season that the visiting team of an NFC South vs NFC South match up won. The NFC South was ridiculous and everyone finished above .500. In summation: I've got every reason to defend Division Champs = playoffs, and yet, I don't. Probably because we only lost four games this season.

Anyway, the Cats continue building momentum and are playing the best ball they have been all year. It's been a helluva season, and one I won't soon forget. I've loved the highs and lows, and I'm still kind of flabbergasted that DeAngelo broke our rushing record in a platooned backfield.

I trust the Silver Fox won't let these fellers rest on their haunches and I look forward to facing a worthy opponent in two weeks.
The Jump

Monday, December 22, 2008

Week 16: Will this be our "Patriots loss"?

Brethren: That's about the only thing I'm clinging to this morning. Last year, the NY Giants infamously took a 16-0 Patriots team down to the wire in a Week 17 loss, giving them the confidence that they could play with the best team in the league. They then went on a 4-game road win streak to win the Super Bowl. Could this overtime, "should have won but didn't" loss in the Meadowlands be the same kind of propulsion the Panthers need to take home their own Super Bowl title this year?

Like I said, it's all I've got.

We got beat at our own game: power football. We had control through the fourth quarter -- a few things bounce differently for us and that's a huge road win. Instead, we probably got too conservative on our last few drives, pining for a field goal and defensive stop that never materialized.

It was a heart-wrenching loss in that I know we could and should have won that game. Four beastly touchdowns from DeAngelo; a beastly performance by Steve Smith (why do we ever stop giving him the ball); some jarring big hits on defense; and it was all for naught. The silver lining is that this is just a regular season game -- it counts as much as the Tampa debacle, the Atlanta loss, or the Week 3 Vikings loss.

More musings desde

Brethren: Oh! I found one more silver lining: now the Silver Fox is forced to play our starters and get that win next week. If we can go on the road and beat an NFC South opponent (something no one in the division has done this year), we'll take home the #2 seed and division title. Lose, and we're a road wild card team. Given our 8-0 success at home this year, I really really want that home January game and the bye week.

Foxey: we need a W this week. Then shit gets real.

Nacho: The SportsParents put the kabbash on me watching last night's game in a bar, so I ended up in our quaint living room, surrounded by some family friends in a cocktail party setting. The compromise was that I was allowed to behave in my usual manner (read: every other word out of my mouth is fuck; this affliction was named "Situational Tourrettes") The game happened, the fridge has a dent in it, and my fist hurts today. To dull the throbbing pain, I went down to Bank of America Stadium and bought over one hundred dollars in Panthers paraphernalia. Retail therapy rocks, but---

Oh my god....Oh my god....Is that Will Clegg's music?? IS THAT WILL CLEGG'S MUSIC?!?!

Ladies and gentleman, a Panther fan who actually attended last night's game. The one, the only, Will Clegg:

I have attended many a Panthers game in my time, but never in the other team's house until the epic battle for the number one seed on Sunday night. The Clegg bretheren made the short trek to East Rutherford, NJ, and here my non-patented, random thoughts, as they actually occurred:

7:15pm Why did we get here an hour early? It is cold as hell. This italian sausage sandwich is terrible. I can't believe... Oh shit! Steve Smith is yelling at Antonio Pierce! That's why I came early. TELL 'EM SMITTY!

1st Quarter- DeAngelo scores. Panthers are awesome. I am so cold.

2nd Quarter - DeAngelo scores again. This time I got a picture of the touchdown dive. I can't feel my toes. I pray that Brandon Jacobs continues to limp around the sideline.

2nd Quarter - Jacobs is back. God hates me after all.

Still 2nd Quarter - OMFG we are leading 21-10! This is amazing, I'm here in the Meadowlands with my brother, watching my team win, I'm so happy and - OW THAT ICE BALL THAT JUST HIT ME IN THE BACK OF THE NECK REALLY HURT!

3rd Quarter - We are not scoring. Steve Smith is not touching the ball. I can feel my toes again, but this is bad because they hurt so much.

4th Quarter - We are winning 28-20. FINISH THE @#$!^$#&ING GAME! Derrick Ward is a dick!

4th Quarter - Field goal is good! Oh, no wait, no it's not. Oh god. I am uncomfortable with the old man pointing in my face right now.

Overtime - We lost the coin toss. If my tear ducts were not frozen, I would cry right now.

Game Over. Derrick Ward is a super huge dick. At least it won't be an hour and half before I get home.

I must say that overall, Giants fans were pretty pleasant. They seemed to recognize that the Panthers came to play and were pretty good, and some even showed genuine concern for our game next week. Many commented on what a great game it was. But to the one who hit me in neck with an ice-ball: we will be back in January. And you will take an ice-ball to the nuts when the Cats win the NFC.

photo courtesy of Will Clegg
The Jump

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Week 15: The Homes Stretch

Nacho: For the second time in the team's history, the Carolina Panthers finished the season 8-0. The other time we did that, we got beat by the Packers in the NFC Champioship. Not that anybody's counting...

The Cats looked textbook strong against the Broncos. The O-line made mincemeat out of a formidable Broncos D. Smithy got his. Fox continues to make the adjustments he needs to within the game with remarkable awareness. Denver has no run defense? Denver has no rushing game? Sweet!

It was also good to see a cameo from the man himself, Jerry Richardson. Always good to see old Jerry rockin' out, and staying warm.

The rest of the season's no cakewalk for the Panthers. Coming up they've got the Giants; a quirk in the universe has turned the 2008 Panthers into the 2007 Giants, where we're playing our best ball at the end of the season. Should be interesting to see if the Giants can continue their self-implosion.

Brethren's thoughts and various other sundries lie beyond...

Brethren waits in the tall grass...

The Jump

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Week 14: A Historically Good Night

Brethren: Who did what to the what now? The Carolina Panthers rushed for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns against a run defense that had previously given up 1 rushing touchdown over the entire 2008 season? These little, old, barely-beating-the-Lions-and-Raiders Carolina Panthers? The ones no one at Sports Illustrated thought could hold the jock strap of the mighty and fierce Tampa Bay Bucaqueers? Surely you jest -- it simply cannot be!

I jest motherfucking not.

On the biggest stage in football, under the brightest lights a young swash-buckling town like Charlotte could produce, the Carolina Panthers pulled away from their most hated rival in complete and utterly dominating fashion, winning Monday night 38-23, behind a historically good running game. First place in the toughest division in football? For now. First place in all the NFC? Could be.

Monday night was a night that allowed Panthers fans to dream big, as big as a NFL fan can dream. It had everything you'd come to expect from a crushing Panther victory: sacks and big plays by Peppers and Beason; plays that make you curse and love Jake Delhomme; big catches for first downs and touchdowns by Smitty; and now, an absolutely dominant run game. We'll breakdown more desde:

Brethren (cont'd): Some patented bulleted Brethren thoughts:

- If the NFC Pro Bowl team doesn't contain someone off this Carolina Panthers offensive line, it would be a sore oversight. My vote right now would be for LG Travelle Wharton -- that man has been playing great football. Last week in the Green Bay game, beyond his blocking, he hustled and recovered the Stewart fumble 40 yards past the line of scrimmage. This week, it seemed like every big DeAngelo and Stewart run (which happened, oh, every other rushing play) was one where Big T was pulling left or right. Here's a guy who was the starting left tackle last year -- the premiere position on the O-Line -- and he moved inside to left guard during the offseason as Silver Fox and Hurney revamped the starting five to be as mammoth as possible. Wharton didn't see it as a demotion or anything like that -- he embraced it and now is playing as noticeably good as a left guard can play.

- The big knock on the Panthers offense is that it's always too one-dimensional. Who do they have beyond Steve Smith? And if we run the ball well, it's well, that's just what John Fox likes to do. Please: this offense is plenty explosive, but strives for a balanced, dagger-esque identity. Last night, that's exactly how they played.

- Seeing the run game dominate like this made me realize the Silver Fox is just trying to not have to rely solely on Jake to win a game. It can and has been done -- but we're much better off not having to have Jake force things, like he did several times Monday night. Great games by Smitty and Moose though.

- The pass defense still seems too vulnerable to the big play, but I think that's the nature of the aggressive, blitz-heavy Carolina D. We have faith to put the corners on an island, and last night, that almost bit us too many times. But ultimately, the superior pass rush and pressure won out.

- One more home game, next week against the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos. Get that win, go 8-0 at home, and start prepping for D-day against the Super Bowl champs on the road for a real test of character. Let's keep this motherfucking train going.

Nacho: Shortly after the Panthers dispatched of the Bucs our mom texted me to say "Peter whoever eat shit!!!" It was her use of coarse language, not to mention three exclamation points, that tipped me off that she was fired up. Smitty's third quarter foot-draggin' TD was made right in front of her. It felt good knowing a family member was getting to witness this remarkable night in person.

This was the game our entire season had been leading up to. Steve Smith said in the locker room after the game that he'd like to keep things the way they are. He meant this in relation to the way the media views this Carolina squad. As Brethren pointed out, no one in the sports media feels necessarily moved by the Cats, and refuse to give them the time of day. If there's one through line sentiment that connects the Super Bowl 2003 squad and this one, it's the enormous chip on both's shoulders. Both's? Boths? Weird.

Last night was magical, it was cathartic, and most of all, it was impressive. Now it's time to move on. The Giants game doesn't exist yet. There is only one thing that should be on everybody's mind right now:

The Jump

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Week 13: The Power Of Inevitability

Nacho: Perhaps the most unique thing about Sunday's come-from-behind victory for the Carolina Panthers was how routine it was. By the time the Packers had marched down to their own 30 yard line on their second-to-last drive, I was outwardly rooting for the Cats to just let them score so we could make our own go at the end zone. A defense that had seemed befuddled by Aaron Rodgers's ability to pick apart their schemes, however, did not concur. Instead our boys did what they seem to do about every other week this season. Put up a goal line stand.

They did. Coach McCarthy, whom I'm pretty sure wore the motion capture suit for the humans in Wall-E, opted for a field goal and when that happened I looked to my left at the gaggle of Green Bayers and smiled.

"Game over."

Had I been a man of chance, I'd say what we had was a sure thing.

My eloquent conclusion, and Brethren's unique trapped-in-airport bulleted thoughts, after..

The graphic came up on the screen announcing that Jake Delhomme had 17 4th quarter comebacks in his career. I solemnly sat down and explained to Doug and the other Packer fans that this is simply what we do. We race out to early leads, we squander said leads, we give home teams a ray of hope (see also: Diego, San) and then we rip your heart out in front your fanbase. It's a dick move, but it's our bread and butter. Well, that, and throwing to Smitty.

this is Doug.

It was a game of momentum, with pendulous swings for both teams. Jake did another turn as Zelig, playing just well enough to beat the opposing team. He even pulled a Brett Farve on that last pass to Smitty, heaving it off his back foot. No one else coulda caught that thing. Tampa Bay's defense has been their core this year, but their offense hung 27 on us last time around. Our D's gotta show up a helluva lot better than they did Sunday if we want to win.

Brethren showed me how ol' Patty Y over at thinks the statistics for home teams in the NFC South favor a Panther victory, come Monday.

I sure as hell hope so.

Brethren: I was in the midst of my nightmarish post-Thanksgiving travel itinenary during this weekend's game, so the only quarter I caught on TV was the fourth. I spent the first half in a car on my way to the Norfolk airport, with 3 women more interested in counting up the amount of "good proteins and calories" in their week of eating than football. I was vainly trying to listen to the play-by-play of the Bucs-Saints game for updates on the Panthers. Needlesstosay, I was ready to get to the airport's sports bar to finally watch my Cats play on the Frozen Tundra.

Once I arrived at the quaint Norfolk airport, I immediately found out my flight back to New York had been canceled. I was then stuck trying to decide whether I should tend to getting a new flight or watching the suddenly close 21-21 game. I settled on just calling Delta instead of waiting in the 300+ person line, and sat on hold as I watched the Panthers fight it to the death in Green Bay.

Therefore, much of my lamenting, cursing, and celebrating came as I was also talking to a Delta representative on the other end of the line. Here are some bulleted thoughts, representative of that odd phone call/viewing of a dramatic Panthers win:

- Even if Smitty is all we have, he may just be enough. Yes, DeWilliams is 'Dash'ing it up and scoring at will recently, but the Carolina Panthers are not that dynamic without Smitty. But with him, they possess just a whole 'nother gear.

- Loved the late hit by Pep, and his explanation of it after the game. He said he saw Rodgers fake going out of bounds the play before and ended up with 6 more yards. He was not going to let that happen, fifteen yard penalty be damned. Loved it.

- Really enjoyed the flea flicker to Moose to start the game. All week, to Fox's chagrin, some players reported that the team had been practicing a little harder to try to correct the recent habit of starting slow. It was good to see that play-call; we just need to see Moose not fumble the ball.

- Moose said after the game that we may look back and see this game as a huge win, as a win that gave this team the backbone to go compete in the NFL Playoffs. Let's see it -- big MNF game coming up.

The Jump

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Week 12: Ugh. Are the Panthers as not good as everyone else thinks?

Brethren: Some teams have already played their Week 13 games, so it's high time we talk about Week 12 and the Carolina Panthers' disgusting loss on the road to Atlanta. It's Thanksgiving week and thus, I am overly fed and weary from travels, but here are some random thoughts from Week 12 leading into Week 13:

- This slow start shit has got to stop. Zero positive yards in the first quarter. Three-and-outs galore. A 17-0 hole. The Panthers do it too often and it finally bit them in the ass.

- John Fox's bottom line approach is tantalizing for bloggers like ourselves. The man only judges the team's individual aspects on whether we've won or lost. Passing game sucks? Well it's good enough to be 8-3. Run defense been terrible recently? It's been good 8 weeks and not good enough for 3 weeks. Players not as prepared for the game? They've been well prepared 8 times and not as well prepared 3 times. Every aspect of the game is "something we'll evaluate" and has been up to snuff 8 times and not up to snuff 3 times.

It's frustrating because as someone who analyzes and overanalyzes every cotdamn Panthers game, I'm seeking answers. And John Fox won't have it. Which is probably good for the team, but it leaves me to do nothing but jump to wild conclusions. I'm sure John Fox loves me.

- Fucking Falcons. They bite us at least once a year. It's annoying.

- I haven't felt comfortable about this team since mid-October. Last Sunday was the first significant Sunday in a while -- we had a bye then two games against the Raiders and Lions -- and quite simply, the Panthers shat the bed. Methinks we're giving the rest of the world a lot of evidence to support the "Panthers aren't that good" theory. I, for one, am still believing. So much so that I recently had a very vivid dream about how the Panthers won the Super Bowl. It felt real. I woke up salivating, knowing that's how it could feel when the day happens.

But still...the Panthers need to get a lot better. Put ourselves in the position to do some damage in the playoffs and we'll go from there. Nacho's thoughts if he ever gets out of a food coma, desde

Nacho: I woke up sad today. Not because my favorite holiday was over. Not because the blogosphere seems to be taking it easy today. No, I woke up sad because the first clear thought through my mind this morning was "There's still two more days until football." Sure, the Iron Bowl's this weekend, but with each passing year my tenuous love of college football wanes. It's because of the bowl system.

Anyway, usually Fridays and Saturdays are pretty packed with work and whatever weekend obligations I have. It keeps my mind off the fact that football's still two days away. Now I'm facing a forty-eight hour stretch without football and even less to occupy my mind. I will, inevitably, overthink this weekend's match up against the Packers. This probably doesn't end. I get a distinct feeling I will memorize "Tropic Thunder", or make just wantonly spend hours on Bodog.

So bear with the Brethren; we're going to be filled with various meats and side items throughout the weekend, and we'll be more prompt in our posting, if for no other reason than it'll give us some peace and quiet.

Happy Turkey Weekend, urrbody!
The Jump

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Week 11: In Which Sports Illustrated Angers the Sports Brethren

Brethren: Week 11 brought the winless and hapless Detroit Lions to Charlotte (and one special guest to our press box) -- and with the winless Lions came the expectation of a Carolina Panthers blow-out. That didn't quite happen, but the Panthers still came out victorious behind a banner day from the Smash And Dash duo of Jonathan Stewart (15 carries, 130 yards, 1 TD) and DeAngelo Williams (14 carries, 120 yards, 2 TDs) and another beastly day from Julius Peppers, Jon BEASTon, and Thomas Davis. Jake Delhomme and the passing game was still a bit underwhelming, but in the end of the day, we didn't need an A+ game to defeat the Lions.

And that's why I'm not too terribly concerned that the past two weeks, the Panthers have played the two worst teams in the NFL and not looked convincingly great. Sometimes the sign of a good team in the NFL is that even on their off days, they win. The Panthers have played 10 games, and come out on the right side of those 8 times. Only two teams have won more games than the Panthers and 29 haven't.

So what does Sports Illustrated, the national magazine who employs some of the most renowned football minds, think of the Panthers? Let's check out the King of the SI Court:

FUCKING NINTH?? Holy shit, you Favrerian cumguzzler! Yes, yes, we'll get to that.

Maybe the Playoff Picture will be kinder?


Anger personified with Nacho Friendly, desde:

Nacho: Thanks, Seth & Amy, but the Nacho's got this one.

Really, Sports Illustrated? Really?

Both your play-off predictor/goomba Dom Bonvissuto and world-renown Peter King think the Panthers won't see post season play. You looked over your sheet of paper that showed the teams ranked from top to bottom based on their current record, you saw the Panthers sitting there at number three after watching two weeks of admittedly shitty football, and you thought "nope"? Really?

You fellas took some pretty selective ganders at the upcoming schedule, didn't you? Saw a bunch of tough teams and a lot of away games for Carolina and wrote 'em off. Brethren and I both agree Carolina plays proportionally to the talent of their opponent, which would make complete sense for the past 2 weeks and the upcoming four. Peter King completely dismisses the fact that the Dolphins upcoming games include the 49ers, Chiefs, Rams and Bills. Dom thinks the Saints are gonna come out of South. That's some maverick action right there. Did we all just fucking forget about the Bucs defense?


Here's an idea: watch more fucking football. Think maybe not just drawing conclusions from highlights on The Blitz could do you some good? Step it up, Sports Illustrated, because I want desperately to agree with Nate Silver.

There is a silver lining and that is this: The Panthers always play better with chips on their shoulders. We're best off under the radar, and it would appear that the Main Stream Media has agreed to allow just that. I'd spew more vitriol, but honestly it's not worth my creativity. Let 'em keep thinking we're not hitting our peak at the exact moment the Giants did last year. Part of the problem of employing middle aged people and calling them the best in their fields is that occasionally they'll shit the bed. This would appear to be one of those time.

Onward, to embarrass the Rookie of the Year.

The Jump

Monday, November 10, 2008

Week 10: Good Thing the Raiders Suck

Brethren: Dear Lord, I have never felt worse after a game the Carolina Panthers won by 11 points. So while John Fox can tell me that in the NFL, a win's a win's a win, beating a gawd-awful Oakland Raiders team 17-6 to move to 7-2 didn't inspire great confidence in me. The offense looked so out of synch and Jake looked so terrible that we needed a banner day from the defense to beat a 2-6 Raiders team.

Luckily, Peppers brought the noise and the funk, the secondary proved it's on its way to being the best the Panthers have ever had, and BeasTon and Davis were flying around the ball like they are wont to do.

So while it was a great performance from the Panthers D, it was against a terrible Raider offense that looked even more pathetic than Bill Simmons trying to do the first-person narratives Big Daddy Drew made famous. DeAngelo made good on his promise to never be run-down and his 140 yards were another great game on his way to 1,000-yard season. But Jeebus did Jake look terrible: a 12.3 QB rating, completing 0 passes in the second half, and connecting on 7 passes to his team while connecting on 4 with the other team.

At the end of the day though, it won't matter as long as Jake can bounce back -- and there are many a good game this season to make me believe Sunday was just an aberration. The Panthers are at a quiet 7-2, and flying just enough under the radar despite having the 3rd-best record in the NFL.

Nacho was at the game, and some more patented bulleted thoughts, desde:

Brethren (cont'd): The patented bulleted thoughts:

- Sunday's game was quite a display of horrific offense, but there was something extraordinary that happened: in the second quarter, after DeAngelo's awesome long-distance touchdown gallop, I got the following text from my good friend Eugene, "Smash and dash according to urban dictionary: to have sex with a girl and then leave immediately...amazing." While appreciating the lesson in what the kids are saying these days, since I didn't have sound to the game at the bar, I wasn't clued in: apparently the FOX announcing team had nicknamed Panthers RBs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, "Smash and Dash," and used the phrase frequently during the game.

Now that's just awesome announcing. I can get behind any nicknames that also double as vernacular sex phrases. Who in the NFL is the Cleveland Steamer? Who's the Blumpkin? The Rusty Trombone? I need someone far cleverer than me to answer these questions.

I'm just glad the Panthers got the Smash and Dash -- a move quite frequently cheered on by me and my buddies and a running back tandem quite frequently cheered on by us as well.

- Ugh, that was such a gross game that you're only getting one patented bulleted thought. Let's beat Detroit next weekend, move on to 8-2, and see how we stack up for the last 6 weeks.

Nacho: The easiest way to break down the past week of my life is with the tried and true Good, Bad, Ugly rankings. Without further ado....

the Good: It breaks my heart into a million little pieces to think of the photos that could've accompanied this post. Like the one with me and Buzz "Shorty" Bizzinger. Or the historic meeting of Big Daddy Drew and the SportsBrethren. Or the countless Jowlers from Friday night (Brethren's got a cache of them and will be posting shortly.) Allah in Heaven, those photos would've been epic. My travels from LA to NYC to Oakland brought me such great joy.

Sports peppered themselves throughout my weekend walkabout: from the Varsity Letters presentation, and having the Godfather recognize me, despite my pedo-stache. To the glorious $15 all-you-can-drink brunch on Saturday morning. It was my first time visiting Brethren since he graduated college, and my first time the Big Apple sans parents. Suffice to say, we stayed up past our bed time. In Summation: the first three days of my trip were some of the happiest times of my life.

The Bad: During the four hours my car sat parked outside MacAfee Stadium in Oakland on Sunday thieves made off with my camera and my best friend's laptop. This put a rather large damper on the whole experience. Raider Nation was surprisingly not hostile; the weather was gorgeous, the stadium was adequate...But that town can burn to the fucking ground and I wouldn't shed two tears. It's filled with the worst scum of the world and for the record: None in our party was wearing visible Panthers apparel, at no point did we taunt or talk trash. We were as docile as hindu cows. We respected the fabled hatred and did nothing to call attention to ourselves, and still the Shithole That Is Oakland struck like a fiend in the night. I doubt I'll ever go to Oakland again, and it's probably for the best.

The Ugly:Anyone else watch that game? Oof. Watching Jake Delhomme pass would've made me physically ill, were it not for the power and the glory that is Jose Cuervo Margarita Shakers. Two per quarter is a healthy pace. It speaks volumes that when we all herded down to smoking section, and the usher for our section politely said "thanks for coming out" as if we were leaving for the day. We all realized when we returned to our seats that, indeed, most Raider fans leave at halftime. It was adorable in a really, really sad way.

Jake Delhomme can try and have another game as bad as that, but I doubt he'd live to see the post-game press conference. That was damn near unforgivable. As a wiser man than myself once said, "that's one."

Two last notes: it's nice to see Peppers step things up, albeit against Oakland, that's not terribly difficult to do. And lastly: there's a chance Duante Culpeper will be a smarter QB than Marques Tuiasosopo, so, y' ready.

Onward now to another mockingly mighty foe: the winless Detroit Lions. I guarantee if we play like we did yesterday, they will beat us. C'mon Cats, lets not fuck this one up too bad.

The Jump

Monday, November 3, 2008

Week 9: The Lovely Bye Week

Brethren: With the Carolina Panthers sitting Week 9 of the 2008 NFL Season out with a bye, I took advantage and headed South to return to the glorious place of Charlottesville, Virginia, for UVA’s Homecoming weekend. I went to Homecoming last year and saw an underrated ‘Hoos team take down a spunky UConn team, and while Homecoming is a good a weekend as ever to watch Virginia play football; this year, I couldn’t get a ticket to actually go inside the stadium to watch the game.

Not being able to “get” a ticket is a little misleading, though, I suppose. In reality, I was in Charlottesville to party in FantasyLand, reunite with some good friends, and attend the various glorious tailgates that define a Saturday in Virginia. It had been far too long, with watching too many football games in New York City bars, and college football and all its pageantry is meant to be experienced in live and living color.

And it was Halloween on Friday. I had to play my part as Jimmy Hart, the Mouth of the South, as about 15 brothers of my fraternity class were attending the party as Early 90s WWF/WCW wrestlers. Mullets, face paint, outrageous facial hair, and neon were on display, and the Cap’t and Mammy even made an appearance at the party. Grand times all around.

Oh, and those ever-strengthening Florida Gators exacted their fullest revenge on the dastardly Bulldawgs of Georgia in the World’s Largest Cocktail party. The Gators seem quite likely to play in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, and for all the talk of the Big 12 this year, I refuse to believe any team that wins the SEC shouldn’t have a shot at the national title.

Perhaps a response to the Bobcats preview, desde:

Brethren (cont’d): Sorry I missed out on the Bobcats season preview from Nacho this past week, so here are some quick thoughts as we’re sitting at 1-2 after the first three games:

- Nacho hates Larry Brown; thinks he’s too old-school and the wrong fit for this team. He claims he won’t play the young-ins, to which I would like to respond: who on this team isn’t considered a “young-in”? Our Big 4 veterans, J-Rich, Mek, RayRay, GForce, have never reached an All-Star game collectively, and are all relatively young. They certainly all seem like they could all benefit from someone who can teach the game of basketball. Worried LB won’t play Jared Dudley? He’s already spot-starting over a woefully out of shape Sean May. Worried he won’t play Morrison? The Great Mustachio is somewhat resembling the scorer he was in college at Gonzaga – which may be just enough to get some trade value out him and try to find some frontcourt help. Who else is there that’s young and not being played?

- To your point about the draft: it isn’t LB making those decisions – that’d be Mr. Jordan. Yes, LB may have loudly stated he needs more talent at point guard and veered us away from a Brook Lopez with the 9th pick, but that’s because he understands that, especially in today’s game, having steady field generals to lead a team is the only way you can compete if you don’t have a mega-star. There’s a reason the same Pistons team LB turned into a Championship team hasn’t made it past the Eastern Conference Finals since he left.

- Hustle, defense, and moving the ball to find open shooters is the only way this team is going to overcome its very obvious deficiencies in the front court. Mek is a fine power forward/center – but isn’t and probably never will be at an elite frontcourt player. Sean May is woefully out of basketball shape. Nazr Mohammad, Ryan Hollins, and the Frenchie aren’t worth much more than the 6 fouls they each represent. It’s a woeful frontcourt, which means the GForce at the 4 Experiment may continue, much to all of our chagrins.

The thing is, who’s better at getting players to hustle, play defense, and move the ball than Larry Brown?

Yes, this roster isn’t going to wow you on paper. But if J-Rich can continue his solid play from the second-half of last season, LB finds ways to unleash the athleticism of GForce, and Ray-Ray steps it up, we have the makings of a team that can maximize its scrappy play and steal some ballgames on nights where we don’t expect it. It’s far from Championship Basketball, but it’s the best shot we have at turning around the MJ Era.

The Jump

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Eli's Coming

Nacho: The Larry Brown era began tonight. Ugh. Bill Simmons doesn't think much of the Cats this year, again. Last year he predicted 25 wins and we got 32, the season before that we got 33. Damnit, we were on the rise!

Then we went and brought in Larry Brown.

The Cleveland LeBrons torched us good in our season opener. I gotta be honest, I'm not expecting us to really advance under the wise tutelage of a man who hates playing young players, and already fucked up our draft. Lets just say I remain an devout Bobcats fan, and I hope Adam Morrison has some sort of reverse Sampson effect and becomes the player he shoulda been, now that he's dropped his locks.

Brethren would probably disagree, but them's the breaks.

Happy Halloween everyone.

Git dat kandy!
The Jump

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Week 8: Character Win

Nacho: Sorry to butt in here but I can't let this wait: Can we all agree that to henceforth call the Panthers head coach "The Silver Fox"? This seems like a no-brainer. The man's got the management style of Roger Sterling, they share a last name, and with John Hamm's surprisingly good performance on SNL, I think it fits perfectly. Sports Guy, Deadspin, FanHouse, MJD: let's spread this like a staph infection.

Brethren: What a phenomenal weekend all-around. We're here to talk about the Carolina Panthers' gutsy, come-from-14-points-down win, but I gotta start with the observation that this weekend kicked some serious ass. The Gators and the Wahoos both had strong wins on Saturday; I spent Saturday night with Penn State fans as we watched JoePa duke out a huge win on the road, and today: the Carolina Panthers overcame some early apathy, silly coaching decisions, and a vaunted Buzzsaw passing attack to snatch a 27-23 victory.

This win would not have been possible without the amazing Steve Smith and an unsung performance by DeAngelo Williams, so we'll start there. The Panthers clearly play better on offense when they've got a sense of urgency and know they need to get the ball to their best playmaker, Smitty. What bewilders me a bit is that it still will take them a while to get the ball to 89, but when they finally come around to it, he does what he does best -- make big plays.

Many may say that the Panthers stole this victory from the Buzzsaw or that the Cards shot themselves in the collective foot, but what I saw was a Carolina Panthers team that kept fighting and pulled out a huge win to close out the first half of the season at 6-2 and alone at the top of the incredibly-solid NFC South. It was a worthy victory and one that makes the bye week that much more glorious.

More individual thoughts via the Brethren patented bulleted thoughts desde..

Brethren (cont'd): Some happy and not happy thoughts from the game.

- Jeebus, John Fox lacks basic sense when it comes to end-of-the-first-half clock management. Let's review and think about the logic behind coaching decisions. The Panthers defense stops the Cardinals on a third down with 1:45 left in the first half and all three of their timeouts remaining. Everyone knew the Buzzsaw would be setting up a field goal, yet the Panthers don't use their first timeout to stop the clock. Instead, the clock runs down to 1:16 as the Cards set up the FG unit, then Fox calls timeout to "ice" the kicker. Forget the fact that the Cardinals coaching staff then made its own questionable decision to fake the FG, which backfires, but I still have no clue why John Fox calls that timeout at 1:16 instead of 1:45.

He's basically saying he'd rather give his offense 1:16 and 2 timeouts to march 80 yards than 1:45 and 2 timeouts. How that makes even basic common sense is beyond me. Let's move on before my head explodes trying to follow the intense, gray-haired man's logic.

- Maybe the most impressive drive of the game was the final one to kill the clock. Two huge third down conversions to keep the Arizona passing attack on the sideline: the first on a huge Dwayne Jarrett catch as he got his clock cleaned, and the second where DeAngelo took a patented John Fox draw 15 yards to convert a 3-and-13. That whole drive made me nervous, and when the game was on the line, the Cats came through.

- Chaz Johnson, welcome to the big boys table. It's one thing to do your thang to a Chiefs JV team in a blowout; it's quite another to do it during a big game against a top offense like Arizona's. Well played, sir.

- Moose: that's your one. Don't ever fucking drop a touchdown pass like that again. You get one.

- It seemed like Jake spent the first half with more energy concerned towards the officiating than playing football. Glad to see that change in the second half.

- I'm feeling pretty good at 6-2, in first place in the NFC South. The season's only half done, but we're putting ourselves in good position to be playing in January. I head down to Charlottesville for Homecoming/Halloween/a four day weekend as the Cats take their week off.

I may not be heard from again until November -- be good, sportsfans, and remember to enjoy life. I discovered that again this weekend and, damn, it feels good to be a gangster.

Nacho: What a win. The Carolina Panthers are atop the highly competitive NFC South, UVA's atop the ACC, and the Godfather owes Nacho a drink.

I find it odd opposing teams haven't solved the Fade-Route-To-Steve-Smith Technique yet, but hey, I'll take it. The Cats are undefeated at home through five games. This is pretty unheard of , and I'm not gonna lie: it feels good. The Panthers enter in their bye week with a morale boosting win, and there's an off chance I'll change my return flight from visiting Brethren in Week 10 to San Fran so I can attend the Oakland game.

Wish us luck, blogosphere!
The Jump

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Week 7: You're On, Leitch!

Nacho: Sorry for the late post; the Panthers systematic dismantling of the New Orleans Saints was just so impressive. And impressive has become the norm this season. The SportsBrethren haven't grown lazy, we're both hard at work at the day jobs, and this Panther team is a great one to get drunk to.

Jake looked great, our D stood their ground on not one, but two fourth downs, and in the end the Cats were atop the NFC South, along with the Pirates. We host a team we beat in their own house last year. I'd bet good money they're looking to do the same to us, and I hear someone might've had their jaw rewired, just to play us. This has all the makings of a game where we sleep on the visiting squad and end up getting embarrassed in front of our home fans. Beware, and be awesome, Cats.

Here and now, I make a bet. Before I do, everyone should know: I never gamble unless I'm certain I'm going to win. Anyway, here's the bet:

I'll be in New York City visiting Brethren for the Varsity Letters series with Big Daddy Drew and Buzz, November 7th thru 9th. I bet here & now the princely sum of one beer that the Carolina Panthers will defeat the Buzzsaw That Is The Arizona Cardinals, to you, Will Leitch.

If you're not in a wedding in Buffalo that weekend, that is.

Beer's in your court, Dawg.

Of course, if you wanna go all Mayors-Of-Super-Bowl-Teams, I'll put a pulled pork sandwich and one surviving national bank against whatever rural Illinois is known for (manners?), but in all honesty, beer's fine.

a video of a drunk pig, after....

The Jump

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Week 6: The Suck

Brethren: This week's listless game on the road against Tampa was incredibly frustrating. The Panthers lost 27-3, but the worst part was that they never once seemed like they were in the game. It was gut-wrenching to watch, as the Panthers seemed sluggish, slow, ill-prepared, and like they simply didn't give a fuck.

The team is trying to spin it as just another loss -- that losing by 24 counts just as much as losing by 1. While that's certainly the right attitude for my team to have, it does not at all convey my emotions while watching this team two days ago.

My true anger has mostly subsided, as I'm doing the tried and true, "ignore-stomach-let the insides simmer" treatment that all great Cloud men employ, so that this bottled-up choler just festers inside, until one day, it'll come violently spilling out when aggressively drinking Grandpa's Old Cough Medicine.

Besides, I've got a full report from the Cap'n that's full of venom and froth. The jump'll contain that, some odd musings from me, and a report from Nacho -- who was at a wedding this weekend and didn't catch the game at all. Lucky him.

Follow me. Follow me to freedom...

Cap'n Pappy: OK here goes: In a weekend when my college teams (UVA and the Gators) refused to go down, the Panthers were pitiful. In the case of both college teams, the first half was well played. After the half, both teams' opponents made a run out of the chute. However, in both cases the Cavaliers and Gators shook off the pressure and instead of playing not to lose, they got aggressive and gutted it out to prevail.

Now we come to the Panthers. This game was so "shades of the last 2 years" in so many ways. The Panthers have fallen prey to playing the entire game the way they play the first series of downs. After a smokin' game against the Chiefs (yes, they are as bad as beef BBQ), they came to the Pirate Ship with more offensive weapons, a suffocating defense, and special teams vastly improved over last year. Whereupon, somehow Smitty got lost out there. Jake threw one way while his receivers broke the other. We got another freaking punt blocked!!!! And we continue to get motion penalties on offense.

In a mirror image nightmare reversal of my college teams, the Panthers come back at the end of the first half only to throw an interception, turning an almost certain less than 7 point deficit into a 2 touchdown deficit. We then come out from the halftime and promptly get punted onto the 1 yard line. Whereupon we run 3 times into the line and we're out. Thankfully, our end zone punt wasn't blocked. After this series, we were notably silent. Where was the 1-2 punch of DeAngelo and Stewart, the bestial defense of just last week, and the special teams that gave the Chiefs the back of their hand? They mailed it in.

Note to John Fox: "It is what it is" as a response to this week's Pirate Ship showing is not going to cut it. It is time to expect more from these professionals or bench/fine them.

You miss a block that costs points: go sit!

You flinch on the line and turn a 3d & 4 into a 3d & 9: go sit!

You arm tackle or try to bump somebody without wrapping them up or stripping them: go sit!

It is high time to earn the big bucks. Your fans are tired of choosing yard work over the second half of a Panthers' game. Out. Pappy

Brethren: I wasn't fuckin around. The Cap'n brung it. Just a few more musings, then perhaps Nacho will do a "Off the Beaten Path" post regaling us all with the wonderful world of weddings:

- Anyone else notice that the head ref for the Tampa-Carolina game gave "the shocker" whenever indicating third down? If we had won this game, I would have reported it with glee. Now, just seems odd.

- My good buddy and Bobcat employee, Eugene, is ready to patent his well-crafted "Back Up QB Theory" -- namely, that every time a team switches to its back-up QB the week leading up to the Panthers game, our Cats are guaranteed to lose that game. It's happened in both of our losses this year. It happened last year when the Falcons came to Charlotte and promoted John Joseph Harrington. It happened a few years back when Tony Romo got his first shot at starting. If this weren't such a hurtful theory on my Sunday emotional state, I'd be singing the praises of Eugene for recognizing the pattern.

- It's almost as if young Eugene's Theory is somehow connected to the fact that our coach is notorious for being stubborn. Fuck it, I said I wasn't gonna get angry, but here it comes. Honestly: down 14-0 early in the first quarter doesn't change your game plan at all, John Fox? You still think plowing head for 3 and outs will "establish" the running game. Our biggest gains on offense came in the fourth quarter, down 3 possessions, when Jake started running a somewhat urgent/no-huddle offense. And by then, our offense was so lulled to sleep, the receivers (Jarrett, Rosario, and yes, Steve Smith) all dropped passed. Shit, John Fox! Somedays establishing the run early can pay dividends. But when it's halftime, you're down 14 points, and nothing's going, it may be time to spice things up. Even the supposed ultra-conservative DAN HENNING has figured that out with his Wildcat offense down in Miami. Fuck.

- That anger didn't even come close to matching the Cap'n's. He does have a few years of the "bottling anger" routine on me.

- Anger over. Moving on to more important divisional home game against New Orleans. With a surprisingly competitive NFC South, it's time to take back some control.
The Jump

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Week 5: Playing the JV

Brethren: I witnessed the Carolina Panthers absolute and utter destruction of the Kansas City Chiefs in live and living color from Section 539 in Bank of America Stadium this early afternoon -- and let me tell you, it was nearly unbelievable how thoroughly the Panthers beat another team from the National Football League.

It's not that I think the Panthers are the best team ever and the Chiefs are the worst, but that 34-0 drubbing clearly showed that on certain days, the Panthers can do whatever they want on a football field. The defense set the tone from their very first series, forcing the Chiefs into negative yards and a punt. The running game then set the table, opening huge holes and cutback opportunities for DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart. That then opened up the passing game, getting Smitty involved and unleashing Moose on a slant that went for 47 yards and a TD.

It was as complete a game as I've seen over the last few years. The game honestly reminded me of the Giants and Bears playoff games from the 2005 year, except back then, that was just Smitty dominating opponents. Today, it was the defense, priding themselves on getting that goose-egg; the running game, controlling the clock and breaking off big plays, and Jake, stewarding an efficient throat-slashing of a clearly inferior opponent.

Today was brutal. Today was beautiful. Today was hopefully the very beginning of a long march towards February. It's the kind of game that lets you start dreaming big as you board your plane from Charlotte to New York. It lets you think, "I wonder how this team would fare against someone its own size."

Today, the motherfucking Carolina Panthers put their stamp on a game, and even if it was against a team that looked like a JV squad, it doesn't happen often in the NFL.

More musings, desde:

Brethren (cont'd): There's really not much more to say, but here are a few patented bulleted thoughts:

- The platoon system at running back is certainly working. Williams had his big game we've all been waiting for, but you have to recognize that having Stewart to spell him and keep the ground game working had to keep him sharp and in shape to bust out the big plays.

- Not enough can be said about the defense. Utterly dominant today. From Pep and the quick front four, to the ball-hawking LBs, to the white-on-rice DBs, it was a full unit effort. Quite impressive to watch.

- Being at the stadium definitely let you in on some things you don't catch on TV. Like the way Pep waves his hand at the crowd behind the end zone, egging on them to scream louder and taunting the opposing huddle. That was cool to see.

- And the TopCats are hot, even when they're not doing their lesbian things.

Nacho's got more, but onwards and upwards to a divisional rival I truly despise next week as the Cats travel to Tampa to face the Bucs. If today was about taking care of business early and often, next week will definitely be about taking control of the division. Let's do it.

Nacho: I wore a cape and dressed a stuffed monkey in a full Carolina Panthers uniform to the bar yesterday. The Panthers' surgical removal of the heart from the still-beating chest cavities of the Chiefs was a fun one to watch as a fan. I enjoyed swapping "DeAngelo Williams is frustrating a lot of people on their fantasy benches" barbs and eventually spent my day focused on the Redskins/Iggles game.

The Panthers rolled, and we eventually put Josh "Chainsaw" McCown under center. I led a rousing chorus of "Hail to the Redskins" after every score. Heck, Nick Goings saw significant play time. It was a great day of one o'clock games, and another middling day of 4pms.

Now, of course, the real season begins. We're through almost a third of the season, and we played one team with a winning record. Tampa Bay, again, is a hard team to read, but they seem to be squeezing out victories left and right. Everybody's talking about the NFC East and how good they are but I think they're gonna beat each other up so much, it's gonna be the other team with a bye week in the first round whose most dangerous. Mark my words.

Onward to that place that has a fucking Pirate Ship attached to it.
The Jump

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Week 4: Definition of Comfortable Win

Brethren: Last Sunday the Carolina Panthers played the closest team to them in distance, the Atlanta Falcons, a team that was a surprising 2-1 coming in. I don't like the Falcons, but I'm more annoyed when the Panthers lose to them than anything. Not mad; not raging; just annoyed and disappointed.

Luckily for me, I was just simply content on Sunday. The Panthers controlled the game in all facets and even though the score was close until the third quarter, I never felt a real fear that the Panthers wouldn't prevail.

It was a comfortable win, and it was very delectable to go about my Sunday knowing that I could check "Panthers beat Falcons" of my things to do on a busy Sunday.

More musings looking back, desde:

Brethren (cont'd): Some quick patented bulleted thoughts:

- Moose. Sweet, sweet Moose. He really is better the second time around. I love the guy.

- Jake. Efficient, fiery Jake. He put up a gaudy good QB rating and kept the game in control.

- BeasTon and Thomas Davis. Ball-hawking and ferocious BeasTon and Davis. This duo of LBs is becoming increasingly fun to watch. The fly to the ball; BeasTon led the game in tackles, Davis had the most out-of-nowhere great tackle, busting through the line in the second half for a six-yard loss of Michael Turner.

- Even the problems of the Atlanta game seemed harmless: a bobbled punt by Baker leading to a field goal, and too many penalties. They were cute problems, almost.

I never felt the game was in doubt, which is how I like my Sundays to be. After a hectic two days of the week, I'm back home in Charlotte, gearing up to watch the Chefs (great googily moogily) battle the Cats on Sunday. I'll be doing my rowdy thing in Section 539.

Onwards and upwards to 4-1!

Nacho: For the first time in two seasons, I voluntarily spent a Sunday where the Panthers played away from The Bar, and not in a stadium. I traveled to Little Mexico, with it's 3 HD tvs in the living room, all of ample 50"+ size. The food was delectable (BBQ Chicken sliders on Hawaiian sweet bread), and the banter was lively.

The game started off with a bang, a Pick Six on the first series. That was called back. Because of Eddie Hoc. Fuck and no. Either way, it was a good omen for this new viewing experience. The game progressed, we kept a weary eye on the New Orleans game, and feasted like fatted Romans.

As Brethren said, it was a comfortable win with some cute flaws. I'm starting to get my dander up about these Tight Ends and their False Starts. It's week 4 fellas, less reign this shit in before we have to play some one good.

The Chiefs are coming off a startling upset against the Broncos, but I don't fear them too much. They were desperate for their first win, and could have residual swagger. Nothing fires up a team like pissing off someone else's fans in their own home. Trust me, I was in San Diego for week one.

So I hope the Cats stay focused, I hope the continue to platoon the backfield and make Moose a vital part of the offense. BeasTon looks like he's gonna make some involuntary manslaughter by Week 8. We're in the thick of a homestand that should progressively rile up the Southerners across this great nation of ours. We're gonna need that good mojo for when we play away from Charlotte in the 2nd half of the season.

Sorry for the late post, but seriously, that was about as boring as a Panther win can be. I'll take it. One last note: Little Mexico resident Ricky looked over his fantasy stats and announced, "We need to get Smithy involved in the offense more." Within the next six seconds Steve Smith had connected with Jake Delhomme and God used the juke-stick to spin move around the Atlanta defensive backfield. Well played, Ricky. Well played indeed.
The Jump

Monday, September 22, 2008

Week 3: Snap Back to Reality

Brethren: The Carolina Panthers came back down to Earth yesterday and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. Losing to a desperate 0-2 Vikings team on the road, against a pass rush that looked remarkable, I suppose I'm not terribly upset. I was yesterday afternoon, but it wasn't as if I watched the game and thought, "Damn, we should have won that game." The Vikings outplayed the Panthers, stole the momentum late in the second quarter and never gave it back.

It was incredibly frustrating to watch the Vikings reel off 20 straight and see little to no fight out of the Panthers. Yes, if a few things had gone our way -- if the Jonathan Stewart kick return isn't negated, if John Fox doesn't call a timeout right before we block a field goal to keep it to a one possession game -- we may have had an opportunity to do the Cardiac Cats thing. But there were also a terrible amount of mental mistakes -- 11 penalties, an ineffective offensive line, and letting the Vikings uncork an eleven minute drive that spanned the second half of the third quarter into the fourth -- that truly made me realize Sunday was not our day.

The implications? Hopefully not too much. Four of the next five are at home (I'm going to the Kansas City game in two weeks!), but shit needs to get figured out, that's for sure. The Falcons always give us trouble, no matter their record, and right now, their record says they're just as good as us. I don't believe that, but I do believe we're in for a fight come Sunday.

More thoughts, desde:

Brethren (cont'd): My patented bulleted thoughts regarding the Cats first loss of the 2008 season:

- 1st play of the game for the Cats: completion to Steve Smith. That just seemed right. Too bad Jake couldn't get it to him more as the day went on.

- Jake claims that Smitty was streaking and wide open on the play he fumbled on right before the first half, and that he was gearing up to hit him. I'd like to believe him, but it just makes me angry. I kinda agree with Fowler and wonder how he didn't see Winfield coming.

- Two ominous signs from the week that looking back at I wish I could have taken more heed of: a) The call I received from Chops where he mentioned the last time the Panthers played a back-up coming for his first game of the year, Tony Romo busted us up something fierce and b) Me acting like I know when football lines are absurd.

- I've been to Minnesota more times in 2008 than I've been to Charlotte. I didn't take the pre-game tequila shot with Pam (I did the first two weeks and we won). And still, if anyone wants to blame me for this loss, I'd point them to J-Lew, who watched his first Panthers game of the year yesterday. Silly J-Lew.

Nacho: I sat in The Bar in front of our designated, prime real-estate seats to watch the Panthers play football on Sunday morning, and a funny thing happened. They didn't.

All week I taunted downtrodden Bears fans, exalting how insignificant I thought this Sunday's game was. They're starting Gus Frerotte and won't have [a 100%] Adrian Peterson! Brian McKinnie's still suspended and a rookie's going up against Pep! I might not be too embarrassed to wear his jersey! I said.

Then I wore my Panthers undershirt for the first time this season, watched my first game without my Goose (Ricky, a transplanted diehard Cardiac Cat lover, spent the day of the Emmys at Leonardo DiCaprio's house filming celebrity Obama endorsements. Ricky's priorities are incredibly out of whack. He wrote jealously...) and I totally forgot about Jared Allen. Apparently, the Panthers did the same thing. Not film Obama endorsements. Forget about Jared Allen.

Brethren covered the game too well for me to talk about it, so I'll just say this:

After Johnathan Stewart scored his third touchdown in 2 weeks (while remaining on my fantasy bench) I picked up the Panther bucket I had and beat it ferociously as my velcro Sir Purr hung from my neck. After an appropriate amount of elation, a young woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder. She stated simply, "My uncle played for the Panthers, and I gotta say, you rock. I miss good ol' Panther fans."

"Whose your uncle?" I asked.

"Rodney Peete."

Had I my digital camera, a lithograph, or the syrup-based artistic skills of Jean-Michel Basquiat I would've done something to keep that moment forever. We talked about how without Peete's guidance, there would be no Jake Delhomme and how meaningful and significant his time there was. I don't remember her name because I was drunk on power and Bud Light by then, but she was a Bengals fan and a pretty cool chick to say the least.

Anyway, I hear the Panthers are playing next week, so that's what I'm focusing on. The Dirty Birds look decent this year, but the guy who traditionally beats the shit out of us won't be starting this week (pulled hamstring. Also, he's in prison.) so there's a chance we can pull this out. It'd be a solid win and a great start to a semi-home stand.
The Jump

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Return to College Football

Brethren: It's Saturday morning and college football is beckoning. I haven't had college football beckon me in quite some time. Between the Carolina Panthers giggly-good start at 2-0 (really, we're 3.5 underdogs to the Vikings? With craziness like that, I should just bet on football to make a living), my job, the suck that is Al Groh and Virginia football, combined with a general lack of epic-ness from college football, my Saturdays have been scarce on beckoning.

That changes today.

It mainly changes because the Southeastern Conference has a huge billing today. The Gators go to Knoxville to play the Vols and the two Tigers of Auburn and LSU do their thang in the evening. I am geared up to go to a Gators bar the same way I did last year for the Gators-Vols game; unfortunately, the Cap't and Mammy won't be at the game like last year, but it's still ramping up to be a romp a la the Gators 59-20 win in Gainesville in 2007. Percy Harvin is returning to the line-up and feeling better than ever, the Gators take on their first SEC test, and the Florida boys treat Knoxville like it's Momma's second house.

Yes, college football has come a'beckoning. And with the weather taking a delectable turn to cool breezes and sunshine, today feels like a fine day to return the call.

More musings de college football desde

Brethren: I am truly fired up about this Saturday. The SEC has reaffirmed its dominance over any other pansy conference in all of college football land, and today will be a testament to that. The conference has 5 of the top 10 teams in college football! And today, the consensus #4 team will take its show on the road and show Fat Phil what good football in the SEC East is all about.

Perhaps Nacho will check in, but he lives in a city where everyone worships USC, and despite their demolition of UVA and Ohio State, I'm just not buying what USC is selling. They play in the Pac-10; they're not the best team in the US of A. The top team in the country will be an SEC team, like the past two years, and that's that.

Saturday, I welcome your beckons. Let's get it on.
The Jump

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Week 2: Rock N Roll

Nacho: Anyone who read our Panthers preview is probably smugly smiling today, and probably a little richer. Which, I hear, could prove better for the ol' wallet. I'm not advocating gambling on sports, but it just feels a little safer these days.

I returned to my Panther headquarters out in Hollywood this weekend. The most ADD environment one can possibly watch football: Big Wangs. 42 flat screens showing every game being played. We camped out between Lions fans, Colts fans and a few shifty-looking Bears fans.

The game started, we ate humble pie, things looked about as good as they have at home for the past couple years. By halftime I was on the receiving end of some pretty pointed barbs and hilarious insults. I chomped on my barbeque chicken wings and smiled with sauce in my beard: the game is sixty minutes long, kids. Why does every team in the NFL not get this? We're the Panthers. We don't play for three quarters, we play the whole damn game.

Anyway, two more towers of beer and a cheese pizza later the Panthers had eked out another victory, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. There truly isn't a more anti-climactic ending to a pro game than four knees taken, but hey, a W is a W.

For the record, I'm getting a ton of de ja vu recently: in 2003 there was a shitty, war-mongering president named Bush in office and no one could beat the Panthers in the fourth quarter. Welcome back, Cardiac Cats.

and now, for something completely similar...

Nacho cont'd: Jonathan Stewart taught me a valuable lesson about not starting him in my fantasy leagues, and I have a feeling the phrase "Pass intended for Mushin Muhammed" was not said over the PA system nearly as much as last week. The turning point in the game, the moment that made me turn to all those probably-felonious Bears fans and say, "Oh dear, you don't have a chance, now," was when Jake was spearheaded by a Bear defensive back, sprang up, threw off his helmet and started pounding his chest. Minutes later Beason made a spectacular tackle and started slapping his own chest. These two unbridled displays of enthusiasm and testosterone sealed the deal for the Cats.

One last note: Darius Rucker sang the national anthem yesterday. The two other previous times he's sung it, the Panthers have made the post season. These are the things that matter, people.

Brethren: Week Two didn't have the heart-stopping drama like the Week One victory over San Diego did. But it certainly was a roller coaster, and it took me though all the highs and lows of a Carolina Panthers win. I'm physically and emotionally exhausted, and all I did was scream at a TV and drink beer made from the Rockies.

It was an awesome comeback win -- done without our best player, the suspended Steve Smith. I am downright giddy we've got him coming back next week; as Jake said, "we've got our rocket back."

And now to the Brethren patented bulleted thoughts:
- The first half was downright sloppy. I really don't understand the outrageous amount of false starts. I seem to remember at least six. Not cool. Not cool.

- We need a nickname for Jonathan Stewart. Two weeks in, and he's nickname-worthy. I love that he has stated his goal of trying to become the "greatest running back in NFL history." That's badass. And not even remotely outrageous.

- Moose was huge today, and has been a big reason this team has gotten out to a 2-0 record without Steve Smith. What a veteran, a leader. I love the guy. Feels right to have him back.

- The Cap't bought a BeasTON black jersey today. It was an awesome sign for another banner day from the second-year defensive stalwart.

- Chris Harris, at it again with the forcing of the fumble. He is the awesome. Rock.

- Minnesota scares me a bit, as they'll be a desperate 0-2. But fuck that, they should be scared we're getting Steve Smith back. Rock.
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Week 1: The Start of Domination

Nacho: I am currently sporting the most ridiculous red neck at this moment. It's in the shape of a V-neck. I stood/leaned in the first row at the 35 yard line behind the Panther bench. At a quiet moment I shrieked a complete sentence to Chris Harris, something about "acknowledge my existence!!!" He stuck out both hands as he rode on the stationary bike, and gave me a double-thumbs up. I'll be back in a bit...

Brethren: Wow.

Holy shit, what a first week win. Going into the Whale's Vagina, not a many pundits gave the Panthers of Carolina a chance to win the first game of the season. That didn't matter. Nacho was at the game; therefore, we had a fighting chance. And Jeebus, did we give the Chargers a game.

Much will be said about the heroics of Jake, Dante Rosario, Chris Harris, and the two-minute offense. And at the end of day, they won the game in those last seconds. But what I watched was not a close, two-point win. I saw a team that dominated a ridiculously talented AFC team on the road. I saw a team go up 9-7 at the half when they should have been up 28-7. I saw a team that looked confident. And dominant.

I saw the Carolina Panthers.

Brethren (cont'd): Smokey aka Nacho was at the game, so I'm not sure I can add much more. Here are my patented bulleted thoughts:

- I watched the game in a bar in Murray Hill in Manhattan that consisted of many Panthers fans. We had an awesome crowd.

- I jumped up and down in men's arms after that last-second touchdown. I was so angry that Jake didn't call a timeout when the clock read 0:07. But then he threw a slant to Moose, and called time with 0:02 seconds left. He then did his business, caught Dante's eyes, threw him the ball, and won the game. I was no longer angry. I was estatic.

- Honestly, we won that game several times. The defense produced a TD; they kept LDT under 100 yards; we just couldn't get into the end zone until the end there. We should have won this game going away.

- That said, we beat a consensus AFC playoff team. On the road. As I stated on Deadspin, we are the Carolina Panthers and the NFL has been put on notice.

Nacho: I'm fairly certain I sat closer to a pro football game than anyone in my family ever has. But before all that, I had to get to San Diego. Ricky & I hopped on the 6:33am subway to downtown LA, jumped into the Surfliner to San Diego, and sat next to a old acquaintance we'd met once before: an original Top Cat Panther cheerleader.

We arrived at the Power Party outside Qualcomm Stadium around 10:30 and I made a bee line for the tri-tip BBQ hoagie. At this point, we were about eight beers in, and we were welcomed by the pretty swell Chargers fans. Everyone talked about Brady, & we decided to take a walk of cojones through the tailgates. We were loudly, and rowdily heckled on all sides by drunk Chargers fans. It was as intimidating as the walk Ethan Hawke does through the Jungle in "Training Day".

We found our seats, but moved immediately to the first row, leaning over the railing, and commenced shrieking like banshees. We did not stop drinking, heckling, antagonizing and going out of our daggum minds for three straight quarters. The weather was perfect, the fans were evenly split between really cool people, and fans who made decent villains.

As the 4th quarter swung to and fro, and the Chargers scored with about two and a half minutes, my commentary to the crowd was "But did they score too soon?" The guy with face paint and a cape cocked a worried eyebrow. As Biscuit Defender drove the boys downfield and the clock kept ticking, John Fox didn't make one misstep. This was one of the specific situations in which John Fox had been shitting the bed in recent seasons, and he nailed it.

From my vantage point, I saw that the snap was high, Jake's pump fake fooled me, and then, in one glorious moment, I saw Rosario leap up and nary a Charger was at the same height. As soon as his fingers touched the ball I tuned, ripped my Peppers jersey off, and started waving it around my head like a helicopter. In times of great joy, I revert to the biggest stereotype I can.

The Chargers fans were nowhere to be found, so we led the Panther fans in a chorus of chants and cheers. Walking out of the stadium we yelled multiple instigating phrases, such as "We can't spell, but we win ball games." and, "That's why they make the game sixty minutes, and not fifty-nine minutes and fifty-eight seconds." We were clever.

The trolley system had some trouble, y'know, running but we eventually made our way onto the train home. Where we slept with smiles upon our faces. For a day, we were kings.

One last note: did you know that Sam Cassell would be ejected from NFL games for doing his "you got no mah-bulls" dance from Major League 2? Myself and some Chargers did the dance, and the cops came up and reprimanded my cohort Ricky for it. Thanks, Goodell.

Soundtracks for the Day:

Nacho: The theme from Mercenaries 2 "Oh No You Didn't"
Brethren: "More Time" by Needtobreathe.
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And Heeeere We Go.

Brethren: My brother, aka Nacho aka Smokey aka the most hilarious guy I know, just sent me that text message. He's en route to the Whale's Vagina as we speak, and I'm waking up, trying to understand why my head and right fist hurt, but not caring. I have a bar to get to; Smokey has a game to go to.

Because that time is here: the Carolina Panthers play a motherfucking football game today.

And this time, it counts. See you after the Cats do their thang.
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Rocking the Vote: Intro Music For The Candidates - UPDATE

Nacho: Ignoring all the other shit lets examine John McCain's choice for Vice President, shall we.

Bottom line: she's a dead ringer for the stripper/teacher from "Varsity Blues" (NSFW) and should be treated as such. Pedro?

When Sarah Palin was introduced and walked out to the theme of "Rudy", one of the seminal pieces of film composition, she raised the bar for candidate intros, and thusly, I will set forth to re-appropriate new music for the others, after...

(Editor's note: a loyal friend and reader reminded me that, outside of movie themes, the absolute best intro music for Barack would be the Chicago Bulls Searching Spotlight theme. Also, it turns out Sarah Palin's high school nickname was Sarah Barracuda, which is coincidentally my porn name.)

Nacho cont'd: Damn, man....Rudy. She really swung for the fences on this one. Luckily, there are equally epic scores to choose from. Let us begin...

JOHN McCAIN It won't pump up a crowd, it won't ignite passions in the hearts of many, but dangit, when I see John McCain walk out onto that convention floor I'm thinking the theme from Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven." Eastwood was mayor of Carmel and seems to enjoy him some Republican politics, so it just makes sense.

ALTERNATE: Considering McCain's military career, he should march out onstage to the whistle theme from "Stripes"

BARACK OBAMA: Considering how epic his entire campaign has been, there's really only one option, the launch sequence from "Armaggeddon". It's so over-the-top, it just fits. Besides, when the asteroids attack I'd much rather have Obama with his finger on the cellphone to Bruce Willis, than McCain. Obama's a celebrity, so they probably Twitter one another, like, every day.

ALTERNATE: Another launch sequence, this one from "Apollo 13". Just as moving as Trevor Rabin's work.

JOE BIDEN: I want Biden to be a little more downbeat in his badassery, so I'm suggesting the theme from "Pleasantville" by Randy Newman. Check out this piece around the 1:30 mark. E. PIC.

ALTERNATE: Barring the soft tones of Newman, I say kick it up a notch and go with the theme from "The Rock" because it's pretty much the only score Hanz Zimmer has written in the past 15 years.

SARAH PALIN: She struck gold with the "Rudy" theme, but just for shits and giggles I'd like to see her come out to the main score from "True Romance". It's seems like it would be uber-cute.

Here's the video to her intro:

I welcome your suggestions in the comments.
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