The only way this day could have gone worse would have been if the Carolina Panthers sprung a big time upset on the New Orleans Saints. As always, for those wondering what I'm talking about, the 49ers hold the Panthers 2010 first round pick, so the worse they do, the better the 49ers draft position becomes. The 49ers would have plenty of options with their pick and even if they were to trade it, a high pick is certainly a good thing. So, we have developed Panthers Watch 2009 to keep tabs on the cats from Carolina.
Week 9 - at New Orleans Saints
I'll be honest, even with the big Panthers upset in Arizona last week, I was fairly certain New Orleans would run roughshod over the Panthers. New Orleans has been bulldozing folks for much of the season and Carolina, in spite of a few wins did not seem to be the team to take the Saints' 0. Well, the Panthers certainly did what they could for a half. DeAngelo Williams had a monstrous first quarter, busting off a 66 yard TD run early on, and adding another to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead.
The Panthers continued their pattern of trying to avoid putting Delhomme in a position to have to make big plays for the team. He didn't have a bad game, per se, but rather simply avoided most mistakes. He had one fumble, but the Saints didn't get any points directly off it. However, the Panthers defense was not able to withstand the pressure of the Saints high octane offense. As the Dolphins learned, the Saints can be contained for part of the game, but in the end they're going to get their points.
The Saints had three plays of 45+ yards that directly or indirectly lead to 17 of their points. The remaining points came courtesy of a DeAngelo Williams fumble and some generally solid football in the second half. After the early scare, the Saints held on to beat Carolina 30-20, dropping the Panthers to 3-5, fittingly enough a tie with the 49ers.
Week 10 - vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Panthers get to head home, but will be facing a very tough Atlanta Falcons team. The Falcons are 5-3, but have had some problems with putting together consistent performances week to week. They almost allowed the Redskins to sneak back in today, before Michael Turner put the game away. Now the Panthers get to deal with MIchael Turner, Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and a fairly potent Falcons offensive attack.
We're certainly fortunate that Carolina has a fairly tough schedule the rest of the way. Given today's interesting developments in Tampa Bay, one could argue every one of their remaining games brings a distinct level of difficulty. I'd expect them to beat Tampa Bay at home, but as the Bucs showed today (and the Panthers showed last week), anything is possible in the NFL.