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: