Charlotte, NC -Yes, the NFL Panthers, right here in Carolina. People will tell us we only beat Detroit and Baltimore. People will say we're the worst 2-0 team in the league. I say to them: Who cares? At this point, we have doubled our win total from last year. We have restored hope to a hopeless team. We have proven something to the fan base which was let down after the debacle of 2001. It's sweet.
Offensively, the Panthers did what many feared they could not: They passed the ball when they had to. Our collective hats must go off to offensive coordinator Dan Henning. Despite our stated preference to run the ball, Henning was flexible enough to take advantage of the situation. If the Lions were determined to shut down the run, Henning would switch gears and pass. This move alone speaks volumes about the current coaching staff and bodes well for the rest of the season. The coaches are into the flow of the game and will adjust on the fly. Making these adjustments means nothing unless the players respond, and boy did Rodney Peete respond, to the tune of 310 yards and one touchdown. He went deep and completed passes to eight different receivers to keep the Lions honest. His accurate throws may have revived fan confidence in Muhsin Muhammad, who had been slumping lately. Moose broke open with 107 yards on eight catches, one of them for a touchdown. And the man the Lions focused on, Lamar Smith, still ran for two scores. Anybody can say it was only against the Lions, but the passing game came to life.
Defensively, what can you say about the Panthers? I suppose you have to start with Julius Peppers. #90 picked up right where he left off last week. Peppers was a one-man wrecking crew, lighting up the Lions with five solo tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, and one pass defended. I think we can put the Peppers/Harrington debate to bed! The Panthers molested the Lions' quarterbacks, no matter whether it was Mike McMahon or the aforementioned Harrington, both of whom threw interceptions. Getting into the sack mix was Mike Rucker, who had two, and the much-improved Kris Jenkins with one. It's difficult to say how good the Panthers' D was today, because they looked so good. They stuffed the run and never let the quarterbacks have a moment's peace. With the exception of one drive, they totally shut down Detroit.
If there were any worries today, it would have to be the running game and field goals. The running game was largely a non-factor, and this should worry a run-oriented team. I don't know if the problem was the Panthers' lack of execution, or simply the Lions' strength on defense. At any rate, this bears watching. We should also wonder about John Kasay, who missed two field goals, with one being blocked. Maybe Kasay hasn't found his post-injury groove yet, but I don't recall him looking this poor in the past. Kasay is a consummate pro and should improve.
I want to send a personal "Pucker up and kiss it" to Fox television announcer Tim Green. All during the broadcast, Green, a former Falcon linebacker, was a Lion apologist. He spent most of the game telling us the Panthers could not run (Once right before Smith ran for one of his two touchdowns –What a moron). He was hoping and nearly pleading for the Lions to turn it around, and didn't give the Panthers much credit until it was impossible for the Lions to mount a comeback. Frankly, Green has long been a Panther hater, and his "broadcasting" is no shock. In retaliation, all I can do is point to the scoreboard and the record.
Don't let anyone bring you down after this one, Panther fans. This is a new team with a new attitude and a bright future. Enjoy it and let's get ready for Minnesota!