Sunday's game between the Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings was sneakily one of the most intriguing games on Sunday's docket. Both teams seemingly stood at a crossroads, needing wins to salvage respectability and hopefully create some momentum with the halfway point of the regular season fast approaching.
For the Vikings, a 35-10 loss was a crushing blow during what had been awful week for the franchise. The fine folks at Daily Norseman have expended a lot of words trying to break down where the team can go from here. Universally, however, Vikings fans seem to agree that head coach Leslie Frazier and crew aren't getting the job done with what appears to be a talented roster.
Leslie Frazier, Coach: I really like Leslie Frazier. I've had the pleasure to speak with and interview him, and he's a wonderful human being. But it is flat out inexcusable for a team to look this flat and lifeless coming out of a bye after a big win in London. As Frazier knows all too well, owner Zygi Wilf has no problem in firing a coach in mid-season,. But when Frazier took over in the middle of 2010, it was a different team. This team seems fundamentally bereft of talent on defense, and clueless on offense. Well, I don't think you can say the Vikings are talentless, but it frustrates and befuddles me that guys that should be playing aren't, and guys that have no business seeing the field are matched up in man coverage against Steve Smith (coughJOSHROBINSONcough).
And this goes to a larger point, and it's that this coaching staff has seemingly regressed to a point that they cannot continue to run a football team after this season. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams has said (as has Frazier, I believe) that 'we don't play rookies'. Yet, they continue to trot out the Josh Robinson's and Letroy Guion's of the world, thinking...what, exactly?
The Panthers are now 2-3, and there's hope over at Panthers blog Cat Scratch Reader that the team can pull off an impressive turnaround and make a playoff run. If Cam Newton continues to play as well as he did against the Vikings, they could certainly have a chance. That said, James Dator believes fans should temper their expectations, at least a little bit.
Wins don't mean identity, and the Carolina Panthers still have no identity on offense. Each week they look like a completely different team, which isn't a good thing. Against the Vikings they used trick plays and short-yardage running to keep Minnesota off balance, which worked -- but it's still not leveraging Cam Newton to his full potential.
The busted coverage TD to Brandon LaFell really helped up Newton's YPA, but he was averaging just 6.5 before the pass. It's been proven that Cam needs to be up above 7.0 to win games, which he ended up in this game -- but not without a lot of help from Minnesota.
Hopefully the win makes everyone believe, and the loss to Arizona was standard post-bye Ron Rivera incompetency. This week the Panthers face a good Rams team, and it will be a huge statement game that should finally prove if Carolina has the mettle to make a run, or whether they remain one week pretenders.