The Carolina Panthers moved to above .500 for the first time since 2008 on Thursday night, routing a listless Tampa Buccaneers team, 31-13, and further escalating calls for the firing of Greg Schiano.
Cam Newton was brilliant, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for a third while guiding the Panthers to their third consecutive win, putting them at 4-3 and in second place in the NFC South behind the 5-1 New Orleans Saints.
Newton, who's thrown for 667 yards, six touchdowns and no picks during the win streak, was careful after the game to point out that the win was a team effort,. Receivers made plays all night, DeAngelo Williams showed good burst with a 5.4 yard average and a touchdown, Mike Tolbert used his strong, downfield running to pound away at the Bucs defense to close the game and the defensive unit held the Panthers to under 300 offensive yards.
The Panthers' play calling and game plan was equally impressive, prompting James Dator at Cat Scratch Reader to praise offensive coordinator Mike Shula for keeping things simple.
As an offensive coordinator he's simply doing what's common sense to win football games. This factor shouldn't be overlooked, especially for an organization accustomed to making things needlessly complicated.
Offense under Rob Chudzinski was like building Ikea furniture without the instructions. The end result might have been pretty at times, but too often pieces were left over and the scheme crumbled under the slightest amount of pressure. Shula discovered how to use his players, and more importantly worked out how he could do things the easy way. Much is made of Rivera's guts in going for it on 4th-and-1, but the 40-50 yards of consistent offensive leading up to that critical moment have been largely ignored.
On the other side, the 0-7 Bucs are lost, frustrated and on the verge of mutiny. Roughly 12 hours after NFL.com's Mike Silver published a telling article citing sources within the locker room saying that Schiano has lost the respect of his players, fans in the half-empty Raymond James Stadium could be seen clamoring for the second-year head coach's departure. Hoisting signs, wearing paper bags over there heads and, at least in one instance, donning a Breaking Bad-style HazMat suit, fans made it clear they are ready for a coaching change sooner rather than later.
Lee Caswell at Bucs Nation writes that the Buccaneers' ownership has nothing to lose by axing Schiano, and thinks the move could be made immediately.
Whether or not the Glazers decide to make some changes at the top tomorrow remains to be seen, but there is little doubt that a new coaching staff could do any worse. The only thing that was good about tonight was the beer I drank in order to get through this garbage display.
I'm sure we'll hear more of the "stick with us, we're going to get better" nonsense we've been hearing from Schiano and company. This team is clearly getting worse, and there is absolutely no denying it.