Carolina’s offensive line couldn’t block, Carolina’s running backs couldn’t run and Carolina’s quarterback couldn’t move.
Carolina’s defense couldn’t get to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and couldn’t tackle running back Le’Veon Bell or his backup, LeGarrette Blount.
Bell weighs 244 pounds, but he moves like a tailback. He ran through and around the Panthers, to the end zone and, perhaps, Canton, Ohio. He and Blount looked like superior life forms.
This was not the Carolina team we saw last season or the first two weeks of this one. The defense makes plays when it has to – game-winning, opportunistic plays. The offense thrives on third down and fourth, picks up first downs, keeps the ball and keeps the defense fresh.
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If the Panthers had a theme last season and in the victories against Tampa Bay and Detroit this season, it’s this: Play smart, force turnovers, don’t turn the ball over and be good when you have to be.
The Sunday night loss at home, on national TV, to Pittsburgh, was more than uncharacteristic. It was a shock.
The Panthers were sloppy.
Philly Brown, who had been Carolina’s best player most of the evening, fumbled a punt return. He calmly waited to pick it; he knew he had time. After he did, he cut left and the ball was stripped by Shamarko Thomas. Carolina’s Josh Norman tried to grab it, appeared to have it, and had the ball stripped away by Terence Garvin. Pittsburgh’s Robert Golden recovered it for a touchdown.
Here’s sloppy: It was like Six Flags over Carolina.
The Steelers were penalized 10 times in the first three quarters for 76 yards.
The Panthers were penalized six times in the first three quarters for a whopping 100 yards. Holding, interference, Carolina appeared to collect the whole set.
Newton threw 29 passes through three quarters. Officials might have thrown more.
As sloppy as the Panthers were, as poorly as the Panthers played, the question is this: Are they as bad as they looked?
They aren’t. Nobody is except Jacksonville.
But good teams play bad games and the Panthers are, I still would contend, a good team.
They’re a good team, however, that lacks the offensive playmakers to overcome errors.
Running back DeAngelo Williams missed the game with an injury and Jonathan Stewart left the game with an injury. Except for one 15-yard ramble by Stewart, Carolina couldn’t run.
The Panthers will have an opportunity to demonstrate who they are and what they can do next Sunday in Baltimore. They will play the Ravens, a team that crushed Pittsburgh 26-6 last weekend. As you might be aware, former Carolina receiver Steve Smith plays for them.
Carolina, however, has the Ravens where it wants them – on Sunday afternoon.
Before Sunday, the Panthers had won 13 of their previous 14 regular-season games.
Remember the loss?
It was to New Orleans.
Remember when it was?
It was Sunday night.
The Panthers aren’t ready for prime time.
Be interesting to see if they’re ready for the Ravens.