The Carolina Panthers received national exposure Thursday night, and they were exposed. Nothing worked, and everybody noticed.
Some of you believe the teams grand plan already has failed and the Panthers should dump their general manager and maybe their head coach and probably their defensive coordinator.
I cant join you. Im terrible at panic.
We all have our weaknesses. Optimism might be one of mine. I believed Carolinas offense would be very good and its defense would be all right. I still believe that, at least the part about the offense.
Nothing about this team has been all right.
If Charles Godfrey doesnt return Drew Brees first-quarter pass for a touchdown the Panthers are 0-3.
Theyre meek. They get down and, except for the Godfrey-sparked victory against New Orleans, stay down.
Coach Ron Rivera pauses in a Bank of America Stadium hallway Friday afternoon as players walk into a meeting room behind him.
When something bad happens and we dont do something good right away its Here we go again, Rivera says.
Is it youth, history? He doesnt know. He doesnt make up an answer.
Rivera wants a team that hits and never quits. Thats the identity he desires.
But we really dont know what our identity is, he says.
The Panthers have been detached. Thursday night could have been magical. Carolina wasnt. I havent seen passion or joy.
I also havent seen an offense capable of scoring every time it has the ball. The Panthers were never going to win 17-14. Theyre designed to outscore opponents.
But Quarterback Cam Newton and his offensive line have been inconsistent. The pretty plays dont work unless the Panthers run. They ran well enough against the Giants, averaging 5 yards on eight carries their first three drives.
While they were running well enough, New York was moving 80, 51, 72 and 57 yards for scores.
The defense played well against New Orleans. But the Saints might be terrible.
Against the Buccaneers and Giants, Carolinas pass rush was a rumor, its tackling woeful. Defensive backs played so far off New Yorks receivers it was as if they were awaiting a punt. Here they go again.
Rivera, 50, grew up in a military family and he carries himself like a guy who grew up standing straight and saying sir. He played linebacker, coached linebackers and was a defensive coordinator. When he walks into the room nobody has to tell you. I cant imagine him avoiding contact or tolerating ineptitude.
So when you see your defense getting handled, what does it do to you?
It just Rivera pauses six seconds Its killing me.
Riveras predecessor, John Fox, was changing his game plan on the sideline and adjusting his strategy in the locker room at halftime. I dont know whether Rivera, a head coach 19 games, can do that. I havent seen it yet.
But to suggest that his Panthers are the same old Panthers, the 2-14 Panthers of 2010 or the 6-10 Panthers of 11, is premature. Sixteen games are on the schedule; theyve played fewer than a fifth of them,
Teams have started 1-2, 1-3, 1-4 and made the playoffs, Rivera says. Teams are 6-6 and the next thing you know they make a run. Can we do that? Absolutely. Weve got time to develop and learn.
You might have time. Do you have the talent?
Are you kidding me? Rivera asks. Look at the wide receivers we have, the way our tight end played, our running backs.
Defensively we made a couple plays. Sure the pass rush is still learning but our run defense has been solid at some point, our pass defense solid at some point, we got takeaways that led to a victory. So its there. Weve just go to find a way to use it.
If they fail, here we go again will become a theme, the grand plan another failure.