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!
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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!
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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....

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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.
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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.
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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.
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