The Bears and Panthers get set for their 4th meeting in 5 years. Talk about two teams headed in opposite directions. The Bears are rolling, winners of their last four in a row while the Panthers have lost four straight. Cam Newton has gone from Superman to Hello Kitty in less than a season. This seems to set up for an easy Bears win, but nothing is ever as easy as it seems. To help us get the inside scoop on the Panthers, we’ve enlisted Ken Dye from FanSided’s Panthers site Cat Crave to do our weekly Q&A.
Here are my questions and Ken’s answers. Be sure to head over to Cat Crave to see my answers to his questions.
1. Cam Newton asked for people to fill the suggestion box to fix what’s wrong with the Panthers. What would you put in the suggestion box?
Ohhh goodness, where to begin? Dump the read-option for starters. NFL defenses are too fast for that and the novelty has worn off much like the Wildcat. POUND the ball – we drafted a high second-rounder, Amini Silatolu, and he’s an absolute mauler in run-blocking. USE Tolbert, Stewart, and Williams to run run run. Instill a sense of brutality and toughness in the offensive line, get them in that run-blocking meat-grinder mentality. If we could just get the running game to be more consistent, that opens up the playbook for Cam. Use play-action, the QB draw, perhaps moving pockets or designed rollout pass/run options…those are the “option” plays we need to be running since those spread out the field for Cam to do some of that gliding running he does. I’ve noticed he’s quite graceful for a guy his size…except when he slides. Ow.
2. Speaking of Newton, what’s going on with him? Is this just a sophomore slump or is there a bigger problem? What can Bears fans expect to see from him on the field on Sunday? Can he and the Panthers move the ball on the Bears’ top ranked defense?
“Sophomore slump” is a catch phrase for headlines. Hurney didn’t do much at all to help Cam in the passing game during the offseason. We added a fullback (Tolbert), let Shockey go (he’s not the monster he used to be but is better than average, and can block to boot – Greg Olson’s not much of a blocking TE), and our 4th-rounder, WR/KR Joe Adams has yet to catch a pass in the NFL and been benched from return duties due to an acute case of fumble-itis. We just didn’t give Cam another weapon, and now the whole team is out of synch. Cam’s “slump” is a symptom of the bigger issue of the entire offense not playing as a unit. It goes back to coaching. Last week, Silatolu had 3 false-start penalties in the second half alone…yeah, he’s a rookie, but by now he should be more disciplined. That’s what’s’ missing from the O if I had to put a one-word label on it: discipline.
3. The Panthers fired GM Marty Hurney this week. Does that reverberate onto the field on Sunday vs the Bears? Does that help turn the Panthers’ season around? Who are the top candidates to replace him and who’s your favorite?
The players really liked Hurney, so they’ll probably go out with a chip on their shoulder. It MIGHT help them focus in practice this week and light a fire under everyone involved, but I think any spike in output will be fleeting. I haven’t heard any names being tossed about quite yet – probably a bit early for any serious talk about a name. Mike Holmgren said Tuesday he’s open to returning but was purposefully vague. I’m looking at Omar Khan of the Steelers….for one thing, he’s a “cap guru” and Hurney left ours in a mess, so he’d seem to be a natural fit financially. Rivera could still possibly save his job if we finish 9-7 or 8-8, but that’s a very long shot with our remaining schedule. My own hope is we can get Bill Cowher for the Head Coaching position after the season, if Rivera does go. Cowher lives in NC….
4. With the GM fired, what’s the prospect for former Bear Ron Rivera to keep his job beyond 2012? How hot is his seat? Are the Panthers’ struggles Chico’s fault?
You’ve probably guessed from previous responses that his prospects look bleak now. We’ve not only not progressed, we’ve regressed and are playing sloppily. His seat is at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and rising fast with each loss. He’s the Head Coach and the buck stops with him.
5. What’s your prediction for the game? Please include a final score.
Man, you really have no mercy, do you? DAAA BEARSSSSS are on a roll, playing at home with a top-5 defense against a struggling team that just got tossed into complete turmoil. Are you kidding? Bears 31, Panthers 6….but you Midway Monsters may just find our own defense is no longer the pushover it was last year…they just stay on the field way too long, as the Panthers are either last or next to last in time of possession – 26 mins a game, meaning our opponent keeps the ball 8 minutes a game longer than we do. We’ll turn it over in your territory at least once though – watch.