For the first time in six years, I attended a live Carolina Panthers game, and boy, it did not disappoint, a time I will never forget for good and bad reasons. Not only of the events that took place, but it felt like a Playoff Game. Yes, both teams are doing poorly currently, but they both had something to fight for, taking first place in the NFC South, even if it's for a brief time [considering so much can happen from this game as we advance]. If there was one way to describe last Sunday's game, it was a wild roller coaster. First, things were steady and slow; then everything started to shift upwards *click* *click* *click* as the ride rose, and finally, the madness happened & things began to take twists, turns, and loops and the speed of both accelerated and the game went from 10 to 100 instantly. Numerous aspects of the game where Carolina could've should've succeeded but for now, let's focus on the positives.
Second Half Adjustment + D’Onta Foreman
The first half was something not to be proud of, with the offense collapsing on all ends and struggling to get up the field with PJ Walker's inaccurate or questionable throws, the connection with WRs wasn't there, nor was the play calling good. To cap it all off, the half ended in a blunder pick-six thrown by PJ Walker into the hands of Atlanta LB Lorenzo Carter to make it a 14-10 Atlanta lead. So with us receiving the ball at the start of the Second Half, we needed to make an immediate statement or change our offensive game plan. That's precisely what we did, as the offense looked much more fluid, controlled, and balanced than it did in the first half. The credit goes towards PJ Walker for the way he carried himself and the Panthers back, as he looked more focused & poised on the field than in the last half of football, as he completed 13/21 of his passes (250 Passing Yards) including a passing touchdown with a 119.1 QB rating. Not only was it his outstanding performance, but it was the way he trusted his offensive line inside the pocket [even worth noting that his awareness was also key]. Especially trusting his wide receivers such as Laviska Shenault, Terrace Marshall, and DJ Moore when PJ Walker threw that one in a million, dimming 62 Yard touchdown pass to Moore that tied the game with 12 seconds left to go.
The fresh chemistry all around set the mood for the team in the second half. However, I can't end this without talking about the new Panther D'Onta Foreman ending with another outstanding performance carrying the load with 118 Yards in 26 carries, including scoring three Touchdowns. When Carolina signed him this Off-Season, I knew it was a great signing, with him being a complimentary backup to CMC or, in this case, a valuable RB1 with CMCs departure from the team. He showed that last Sunday because without his strength & physicality as a ball carrier; we wouldn't have been in that game. I don't know if we plan to either re-sign him back or draft an RB in the draft (most likely second round), but if Foreman stays on this path, Carolina will have no problem bringing him back as their new starting running back.
The Disaster Of Eddy Pineiro
I don't expect being a kicker in the NFL [or in general, really] to be a simple task; yes, they don't have to call plays, run or pass the ball, or tackle (sometimes), but all they have to do is kick the ball simple right? Nope, I don't expect an average person to 100% make the kicks professional kickers do. But that doesn't excuse Eddy for blowing two opportunities to win the game last Sunday, the first time I understand a bit since Moore's questionable flag pushed him back to Atlanta's thirty. Usually, he hits those 40 + yard kicks, but unfortunately, he missed sending it to OT, which would give him another chance for redemption closer, bringing it to 32 yards of distance which should be a layup for him. But he missed again, which deflated & infuriated the entire Carolina fanbase, as you can imagine, because coming into this game, he was perfect kicking. However, once he's in one of those pressuring moments, he collapses under pressure as to why numerous fans were calling for the release of Eddy (including myself) but then realizes that there weren't many upgrades to pick from if we did. Now am I furious and disappointed that the game ended the way it did? Yes, but this is also a teaching lesson for everyone involved to help them grow as one, especially for Eddy, who has a chip on his shoulder for the rest of the season.
As he said in an interview,
"Just gotta make the kick…I know it's not gonna define me as a kicker; everyone misses kicks, and unfortunately, my time was today, bounce back and get ready to kick," - Eddy Pineiro
A response I adored, for his compassion, accountability & confidence that he'll bounce back just one thing, this will be one of those moments that will define him as a kicker. I'm not expecting Carolina to bring Eddy back after this season, but when he heads into FA, depending on how well he does. It will be questionable if he gets thoroughly picked up again (considering how his time was in Chicago, too). But then again, you look at how Zane Gonzalez bounced back and redefined his career, so anything can happen to wish Eddy the best in the future.
Overall, I have to say, regardless of the win or loss, that was the greatest football game I've seen in person, and I was blessed to watch my Panthers play in person. With the trade deadline over & we're at the halfway mark of the season, where do the Panthers go on from here? Well, they have an interim coach, Steve Wilks, who is a strong candidate for next year's coaching job with a team that doesn't look ready too quit. So as others would love to see them tank to receive a high draft pick in the upcoming draft, I don't see this young Carolina group stepping off the gas pedal. Thanks for reading Week Eights Recap; I hope you all have a great day!