Simply stated, the 30-20 loss by the Carolina Panthers was a tale of two halves.
The Panthers were like Alice in Wonderland in the first half. Everything that could go right did go right.
On offense, DeAngelo Williams set the pace with 115 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns, while the defense not only shut down the vaunted New Orleans passing game but caused two turnovers by quarterback Drew Brees and held the Saints to their lowest point total in a half – six points on two field goals.
In the second half, the fantasy was over – Alice was kicked out of the rabbit hole and it was back to reality.
The Saints outscored the Panthers 24-3 in the last two quarters and Brees ended the game with 330 yards passing.
Williams gained only another 34 yards on the ground for Carolina and had their only turnover of the game, a fumble that was scooped up by New Orleans’ Anthony Hargrove, who scored and put the Saints up 10 points with a little more than two minutes left.
I’ve never been a fan of classifying a loss as a good one, but I think this one fits that mold.
Sure, Carolina had a chance to score the biggest upset of the NFL season and win the fourth of their last five games, but there are at least a few good things they can take with them this week as they prepare for the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday.
The most obvious is the play of quarterback Jake Delhomme. I’ve been just as tough on him as anyone, but his play of late has improved.
After throwing 13 interceptions in the first 6 games he hasn’t thrown a pick or turned the ball over in the last two. Let’s see if he can keep it up.
Williams, who has 768 rushing yards on the season, is the Panthers’ most dangerous playmaker on offense with five touchdowns in the last four games. He’s on pace to surpass 1,500 yards again and has answered any questions about whether last year’s performance was a fluke.
He’s one of the best running backs in the NFL, and when you pair him with Jonathan Stewart, they are arguably the league’s best one-two punch.
The Panther defense continues to cause havoc for opposing teams. Against the Saints, who average a league-high 39 points per game, Carolina never allowed New Orleans to get on track offensively.
You can’t expect to stop the Saints from scoring the whole game, but you can slow them down and give your offense a chance to win the game, and that’s what the Panther defense did.
Unfortunately, the game ended as it has four other times for Carolina this season – with a loss.
Damon Ford is a public relations professional who has worked in the public and private sectors in Charlotte. He is 4-4 in predicting Panthers games.