There is a saying among NFL coaches and players that says NFL stands for Not For Long if you’re not doing your job correctly.
On Tuesday, there was hell to pay for the Carolina Panthers that allowed the Vikings to get two of their touchdowns in Sunday’s 31-13 win, as the Panthers cut two veteran players that were deemed responsible.
The team announced Tuesday that cornerback Antoine Cason and linebacker Jason Williams had both been released and replaced by two undrafted rookies from their practice squad – cornerback Carrington Byndom and linebacker Horace Miller.
Cason, a veteran cornerback, started 11 games for the Panthers, but graded out as one of the worst cornerbacks in the league, according to the stats site Pro Football Focus. Cason was ranked 111th out of 117 cornerbacks rated and he was deemed 116th in coverage. On Sunday, he got out of position and allowed Greg Jennings to catch a pass that would turn into a 17-yard touchdown – the Vikings’ final touchdown of the game and the score that helped put Sunday’s game out of reach.
Williams, a core special teams players, missed an assignment that allowed Adam Thielen to shoot through a gap and block a punt that he would scoop up and run in for a 30-yard touchdown in the first half of the game.
Cason was brought into Carolina in part to replace the free agent losses, including current Viking Captain Munnerlyn – one of three starters in the secondary that left after last season. Cason had a solid career playing under Norv Turner when Turner was the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. He spent 2013 with the Arizona Cardinals, but was used as a nickel or dime corner and never won a starting job there.
Cason had struggled all year, allowing receivers to catch 80 percent of passes thrown his way and allowing opposing quarterbacks to have a passer rating of 120.3 when they targeted his assignment with their passes. The Jennings touchdown appeared to be the last straw.
Cason was tied for the league lead with four forced fumbles, but after giving up the touchdown to Jennings, Cason was pulled in favor of rookie Bene’ Benwikere, who finished out the game and is expected to start this week now that Cason has been released.
Williams was no stranger to the Panthers. In two different tenures with the team, the 28-year old played in 45 games in Carolina and was viewed as a special teams ace. Last year, he blocked a punt against the Jets that helped propel Carolina to a Week 15 win that solidified their stranglehold on the NFC South division title.
On the punt-block-for-touchdown, Williams failed to diagnose a stunt that forced safety Thomas Decoud to pick it up, opening a lane for Thielen to blow through untouched and block Brad Nortman’s punt and bring it back for a touchdown.
The release of the two veterans comes on the heels of other veterans being viewed as scapegoats following losses that led to their releases, including wide receiver Jason Avant and defensive back Charles Godfrey.
When a team is 3-8-1, there is plenty of blame to be shared, but with a volatile head coach like Ron Rivera, mistakes aren’t tolerated and there are consequences for making them.
As the Vikings enter the final quadrant of the 2014 season, they’re doing so with a resolve to finish strong and make a good showing for themselves after finishing 2-2, 1-3 and 2-2 in their three quarter-pole marks of the season. The team is sticking together and looking to the future.
Carolina, it would seem, is looking to the past and pointing fingers at those players who were deemed to have been most responsible for the loss to the Vikings. Heads are rolling in Carolina and the blame game continues – possibly working its way back up the power chain all the way to Rivera himself.
The Panthers proved Tuesday that the Not For Long element of the NFL not only exists, but remains in practice. For every positive that a team like the Vikings could take away from Sunday’s win, there was a negative taken away by the Panthers.
On Tuesday, two of the players who had a hand in those negatives were sent packing.
Panthers’ offenders vs. Vikings released
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