Monday, January 2, 2012

Panthers end season with loss in New Orleans

By Thomas Fanjoy

The Panthers ended an otherwise encouraging season with a thud, losing to the red hot New Orleans Saints 45-17 on Sunday. It was unknown prior to the game how much the Saints' starters would play, but they played the whole game in an attempt to maintain their brilliant form and possibly claim the 2 seed in the playoffs.
     
 Drew Brees continued his late bid for the MVP award, finishing 28 for 35 for 389 yards and 5 touchdown passes. The Carolina defense was utterly helpless against the onslaught, making it a very slow day for the Saints punter. The first half was a shootout and was tied at 17-17 until Brees found Marques Colston for a 42 yard touchdown pass with 7 seconds left in the second half. From then on, the Saints dominated as Cam Newton appeared discouraged as he realized how little help the defense was giving him. With the exception of a bad end zone pick, Newton played well in the first half, and did as well as he could matching Brees.
    
 Newton found Steve Smith for a 12 yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and put together another drive in the second quarter to tie the game. In the second half however, Newton's negative body language showed his mounting frustration. He ended up finishing 15 for 25 for 158 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
    
 For the Saints, Marques Colston had a huge day, catched 7 passes for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jimmy Graham also finished with 8 catches for 97 yards and broke Kellen Winslow's 32 year old record for receiving yards for a tight end. However, Graham only held that record briefly, as he was surpassed by New England's Rob Gronkowski.
    

 Despite the win and a 13-3 record, New Orleans loses the tiebreaker to San Francisco and will host Detroit in the wild card round next weekend.
For the Panthers, while there's a lot to be happy about from this season, this game showed how far there is to go. They will surely draft with the Saints in mind, because New Orleans is likely going to be a roadblock for the Panthers the next few years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

QCH opportunity

I appreciate everyone that reads this blog more than I can express. Really do every single post because of my pure passion to write about sports and cant express enough how grateful I am for the people that read and support my material. 

I have been writing for Queen City Hoops for almost a year now and it's been a great opportunity for me to get first hand experience on many different levels. QCH has received opportunities lately to cover the Bobcats on a much closer level. We have been able to attain media credentials for some games and practices over the holidays and while I'm here in the area I will be focusing much of my attention on that. 

Long story short, there will be someone helping me post material on Panthers and possibly the Bobcats too. More to come. 

For any Bobcats material that anyone has been missing lately, please check out www.queencityhoops.com/blog/

Guest writer Thomas Fanjoy stops by to breakdown Panthers season

While the Panthers will be watching the playoffs at home for a third straight year, it has been a promising season after last year's 2-14 debacle. As they look to finish strong with two division games against Tampa Bay and Atlanta, the future looks very bright for this young and talented team. 


It's amazing what having a franchise quarterback can do for a team's outlook. The last couple seasons, the Panthers have been bad and very boring to watch. The offense was the league's worst and even a diehard fan like myself could hardly bear to watch them. This year Cam Newton has rejuvenated not only a team but an entire fan base. Despite a 5-9 record, the Panthers have been competitive, holding the lead in every game but one. However, there are still many problems that need to be addressed in the draft and free agency. 


This young team has managed to grab defeat from the jaws of victory multiple times and does not really seem to know how to finish just yet. In a very ironic twist from past Panthers teams, this team has abandoned the running game at times despite two highly paid running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The duo that carried the Panthers in previous seasons have not been used as often as they should. Greg Olsen has been an excellent pickup in the passing game as offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski has utilized his tight ends in the passing game more than they were in the Fox era. However, the endless search for a second receiver to complement Steve Smith continues. Brandon Lafell and Legedu Naanee have shown improvement but it's uncertain if either are the answer. 


The Panthers have likely played themselves out of the race for Oklahoma St. receiver Justin Blackmon so it will be interesting to see what direction they will go in the draft. After watching the Panthers defense give up 30 or more points in 7 of 14 games, I think that's the direction which they should look. The problem is that both a pass rusher and corner are needed. 


Despite the problems that plague almost every team, it's safe to say the Panthers are back this year. The combination of offensive explosivness and the unpredictable nature of this team has made them vastly entertaining to watch. Other than the terrible effort against Tennessee, the Panthers have never stopped competing. The playoffs are surely a realistic goal next year if a few problems can be patched up. This current season is not over yet however. It would be so sweet and build momentum for next year if the Panthers could end this year with two victories over hated division rivals.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Panthers cough up another big lead; Chronicles of sorrow in a sports bar

As the Panthers began to drive down the field and attempt to salvage what was looking to be like their sixth big collapse in the 4th quarter this season, Olindo Mare marched onto the field with just under five minutes to play to calm everyone's nerves and put Carolina back on top. The story that led up to this moment is what made yesterday full of the unforgettable ecstasy and memory burning downers that come along with being a true Carolina Panthers fan. Read...

As I woke up yesterday morning at the all boys military boarding school that I currently work at (Fork Union Military Academy) I rose with excitement around the past few weeks from my beloved Carolina Panthers. Though one big problem exist, I am summoned to the Redskins and Ravens games in this lonely part of the nation - Solution: sports bar. As I got out of the shower I decided that I was going to venture into Charlottesville, VA, to the Buffalo Wild Wings and be "that guy" that goes to the sports bar rocking his teams apparel, alone, and is the talk of the bar before it's all said and done.

As I walked in to the BWW's, there were Redskins fans as far as the eye can see. Didn't feel exceptionally comfortable at first, but after being reminded by many of the maroon and white supporters that the older generation of Panthers fans were actually Redskins fans at heart (Refer: Panthers only in existence since 1995) and that I would be civilly accepted, I settled back into my seat and enjoyed a beverage anticipating the start to the game.

5:29 1st Quarter: Defensive confusion and a breakdown in the coverage. 'Captain, you've got deep third there! Geez...' As I stand up from my bar stool in displeasure and in an uproar, the Redskins faithful understand I'm not messing around. 7-0 ATL.

5:29 1st Quarter: Panthers take over. LaFell continues emergence, Smith gets back into the act and showing emotion, 'let's go!' Staying balanced, getting Stewart and DeAngelo involved, even a direct snap to Armanti for a solid 5 yards. 'I like it, manageable 3rd down.'

0:03 1st Quarter: Newton shows in his inner Tebow with the fake draw, jump pass. Newton to Shockey, TD! 'Atta boy Cam, let's get it!' Redskins fans staring at me as I take a gulp of my beverage. 7-7.

12:23 2nd Quarter: Turner run for 7. Again, Turner up the middle for 7. First down ATL. 'Well, we're at it again. Making mediocre RB's look like pro-bowlers on a weekly basis.' Turner loss of 1. Incomplete. Munnelyn shoves Gonzalez out-of-bounds. 'Give the rock back!'

8:46 2nd Quarter: Can't keep the drive going. Punting back to ATL. 'Can't get running game established, what's new? Mam, another beverage please?'

7:12 2nd Quarter: 'Safety! Antwan Applewhite!!! You're definitely getting a contract in the off-season!' No response from anyone else in bar, but wait, out of the back corner of the establishment I hear a simultaneous cheer. To my eye's pleasure, sure enough, it's a Panthers fan rocking a fresh Newton numero uno jersey. I'm not alone. 9-7 Panthers.

6:51 2nd Quarter: DeAngelo 74 yards to the house. TD. 'Did ATL just put 11 in the box there, wow! DeAngelo, I still believe in you!' 16-7 Panthers.

5:02 2nd Quarter: 'Matty Ice can't move the ball against this defense!' I look to my fellow Panthers compadre and proclaim how good the defense looks suddenly as he responds, 'McDermott really has gotten these guys all on the same page.' ATL punts back to us.

3:03 2nd Quarter: Screen pass to Greg Olsen. 44 yards, house! TD. Two guys now become the life of the bar giving high fives while tipping their glasses together. 'This team has finally come together and look like one of the best squads in the league! What's the formula for us getting into the playoffs?' 23-7 Panthers.

HALF: Great conversation with Panthers fan. Both of us raving about how great Rivera and this new coaching staff is for the young team. Him: 'Glass is empty, another?' Me: 'Absolutely.'

14:23 3rd Quarter: I return from the bathroom and 37 seconds are gone in the quarter. 'What's Jason Baker already doing on the field? Uh oh.'

10:55 3rd Quarter: ATL moving the ball right up the field. 1st and 10 on Carolina 12. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. ATL FG and disaster averted. 'We dodged a bullet there. GULP.' 23-10 Panthers.

9:27 3rd Quarter: DeAngelo for 4 yards. 'I'll take it.' Newton to Naanee for 14. 'Coming right back with an answer!' 'Wait, did he seriously just try and toss that 8 yards underhanded with his left hand? Oh, dear God. Here we go again.' ATL takes over. Large sip.

8:55 3rd Quarter: TD ATL. 'Of course it only took 2 plays!' Angry and confused. Fellow Panthers fan has disappeared and loneliness starts to set in. 23-17 Panthers.

4:46 3rd Quarter: Screen pass, run. Screen pass, run. 'Here we go. Long methodical drive right down their throats. Let's wear the dirty birds down!' 'Who in the world was that intended for!?!?' Redskins fan sitting beside responds, 'looked like LaFell.' In my annoyed anger I don't respond and think to myself who answers rhetorical questions at a sports bar. 'Surely this guy understands football sarcasm. If he doesn't, then what is he doing here?' 1st and 10 ATL.

3:58 3rd Quarter: Matt Bryant FG no good. 'I'm ready to except us blowing another lead so don't lead me on. Finish this game or let me go home.' 23-17 ATL.

2:06 3rd Quarter: 'DeAngelo can't find any running room, no surprise there.' Kalil goes down, doubtful to return. 'Kalil out, this should help our cause of attempting to burn the clock. Just end this collapse now. Mam, another please.'

12:42 4th Quarter: Pass complete to Tony Gonzalez. Another pass complete to Tony Gonzalez. 'This guy has haunted me as a fantasy football zombie, but now we're going to allow him to continually torch us underneath and complete this disaster. Pick him up!' As I say that, Julio Jones TD. Not the last we'll hear from him. ATL 24-23.

10:41 4th Quarter: 3 and out Panthers. 'Spencer, just get up and leave. What's the point of staying here and torturing yourself when you already know exactly how this ends?.....Mam (as she watches me like a hawk anticipating my request)?

9:18 4th Quarter: ATL stays in the no huddle, going for the kill. 'This isn't good, no way we can stop their no huddle now. Why didn't I leave!?!?' ATL 3 and out.

5:12 4th Quarter: Screen to Stewart, 17 yards. Short right to Smith, 17 more yards. Cam zone read keeper for 12 yards. I make my way from a depressed slouch in my seat to the edge of the cushion in only three plays and suddenly feel a rush of hope come over me. 'Finally we're showing a pulse again, let's go (knowing in the back of my mind all this is false hope)!!!' Roughing the passer, first down Carolina at ATL 22. 'We'll at least take back the lead. Mare's chance to redeem himself, hell, he better since I got his back after the choke job against Minnesota.' Mare misses 36-yard FG, ATL takes over.

4:17 4th quarter: 'I'm leaving right now. Mam, check please.' Before I even have time to sign my check and walk out, Matty Ice to Julio Jones, 75 yards touchdown. 'Truly unreal. Hey Sherrod, you're tackling the guys wearing white today! Make it stop, please, make this end!' Check comes back, Panthers are receiving the kickoff. 'I can't leave now, because as soon as I do Cam makes an amazing play (not).'

3:31 4th Quarter: 3 and 10. Jacket is on, zipped, and I'm ready to walk out. Newton to Smith, 48 yards to ATL 32. 'Are you kidding me? This is some kind of sick joke, right?' Pass incomplete. Incomplete again. Another incompletion. 4 and 5. INCOMPLETE. 'Yep, it was a sick joke. I hate you Panthers.'

As I walk out of the Buffalo Wild Wings I pass many Skins fans who are sulking in their own heart breaking loss to the mutually hated Patriots, and as each of us make eye contact it was like it's own silent language. 'Me and you, man, we're going to be somewhere next Sunday at 1pm doing this all over again. Believing that it will be the Sunday our team comes out on top.' It what brings us all back from week-to-week, even when we are passionate about a losing franchise. The difference with the Panthers this time is that they have a superstar, a guy that everyone can really and truly depend on to pull us out of this funk. The ray of hope we all wish that will one day take us to the top. Cam Newton.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Queen City Hoops unveils player previews -- First up: DJ Augustin

Queen City Hoops is going to be doing player previews for the Bobcats over the next few weeks leading up to the season.

In the process, QCH will be having a little bit of fun with it by implementing a Transformers rating chart to help break down the effectiveness of each respective player in different categories.

Please enjoy the first of more to come. Here is the DJ Augustin preview from QCH.

Record breaking day in Tampa Bay; Both rookie DT's lost for season

Cam Newton has nearly perfected the Superman impersonation and now should have every right to feel like he is exactly that. With Sunday's 3 rushing TD's Newton now has become the all time leader in rushing TD's (13) for a QB in NFL history. A feat to the extent that you never see rookie's accomplish, but usually only hall-of-fame worthy players. Could Newton's record breaking day Sunday be a sign of what this kid is really capable of in his career?

"The one thing I've seemed to get is more comfortable. Dictating to the defense to some degree with your eyes, the pre-snap reads. The only difference in NFL and college is that the athleticism increases at each position," said Newton after his record breaking game on Sunday.

The Panthers were nearly unstoppable on the offensive side of the football thanks to the help of flawless execution and very creative play calling. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski called a "throw back" play in the first quarter when Newton threw what looked like a WR screen to Legadu Naanee, Naanee then threw the ball back across the field to Newton who took it inside the Tampa Bay 5-yard line which setup a short Jonathan Stewart TD.

Carolina ran the ball 39 times on Sunday and only had 22 passing attempts, but was still more efficient than it has been in any game yet this season. This is proof that even though Chudzinski wants to run much more of a spread offensive attack, he knows that it starts with success on the ground. Forget the two headed rushing attack with Williams and Stewart Panther fans are used to, the Panthers now have a trio of guys that can be extremely effective on the ground, and seeing Newton get just as many carries as at least one of the other RB's in the lineup will be a consistent trend for a long time to come now.

Carolina's defense also looked a lot better on Sunday as they held Tampa Bay to just 285 yards of total offense and only 78 of those yards come on the ground. The Bucs only attempted 29 rushes on the day, but also only averaged 2.9 yards per carry.


On a negative note, both of the rookie starting DT's have been placed on injured reserve and are lost for the season. Sione Fua strained his right hamstring in warm ups and did not play on Sunday and Terrell McClain sprained his left knee in the third quarter, now both summoned to miss the remaining four games.

This is very disappointing news for both of these players because of the fact that both were gaining such valuable experience on the field their rookie season, but now are sidelined. The good news is that neither injury should be a long-term concern for either, but just another blow to the depleted defense nonetheless. Second year man Andre Neblett and rookie Frank Kearse will replace the two at the DT position. DE's Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy also moved inside some last Sunday when needed.

Although this seems like very bad news for a defense that already struggled to stop the run, it could influence defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to implement more of the 3-4 scheme that Carolina has experimented with a little bit this season.

The team now prepares to take on the division foe Atlanta Falcons this Sunday in Bank of America Stadium.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Why Kwame shouldn't leave Charlotte

Kwame Brown had his most productive year in eight seasons last year. I'm not going to list stat after stat explaining why this guy had such a productive year and why he is now again a relevant player in the NBA. If you're interested in the numbers and his statistical re-emergence as a player then read my post from a few months back.

This is about Kwame Brown and his loyalty to someone who not only wasted one of the worst number one overall picks ever on him, but then turned around and gave him a second chance in a new city.

In 2001 Michael Jordan nearly threw away his front office basketball career when he drafted Kwame Brown with the number one overall pick. Everyone who thought they knew anything about basketball and had a pulse ferociously criticized Jordan for the pick and vowed that he should never be involved in the decision making process around the personnel of an NBA basketball team for rest of his life.

In 2010 Jordan officially bought the Bobcats and then signed Kwame to the veteran minimum shortly thereafter. Everyone was shocked that Jordan was going to summon himself to being laughed at by the basketball community once again, but he did and instead laughed at them.

Now Kwame finds himself in a situation that he certainly isn't familiar with; Numerous teams bidding for his services....thanks to Jordan. If it weren't for Michael Jordan and his willingness to give Kwame a second chance then who knows where Brown would be today, or if he would even be in basketball anymore. Michael Jordan saw the opportunity to bring Kwame Brown somewhere where he would be an immediate factor and earn quality playing time while learning from one of the most physical post players to ever play in the NBA, Charles Oakley. That bargain paid off for both Brown and Jordan and now the time has come for the two to keep the momentum going.

Brown will be able to visit other team facilities and take physicals tomorrow at 10am and I fully expect for the Bobcats to be the first and last place that Kwame will visit. The infamous number one overall bust has found an owner who believes in him and a home that he surely feels comfortable in. The Bobcats owe Kwame what he is worth, which will most likely be a multi-year deal that's worth about 4 or 5 million/year. Kwame, in return, technically owes the Bobcats nothing as he is a free agent and can just wait to hear the largest offer, then sign on the dotted line. If he has an appreciative bone in his body then he'll beg Jordan and the Bobcats to believe in him with a multi-year deal and vow not to even entertain another offer.

Sure, all of this may be completely unrealistic, but it's certainly not irrational. Michael Jordan has always believed in the high school superstar that probably forever tarnished his career by not going to college before he entered the NBA, and now it's time for Kwame to believe in Michael for giving him that second chance that probably should've never come.

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