Tuesday, November 11, 2014

So That Was Ugly (Panthers-Eagles Edition)

I'm out of town this week, but I can only imagine the wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth back home over the Carolina Panthers' extended demolition at the occasional hands of Mark Sanchez. No doubt the drums are beating for the team to do something about Cam Newton - what "something" is, nobody is quite sure, except it boils down to "play better for less money" - and to burn Riverboat Ron Rivera and the front office in effigy for letting Steve Smith go. Sometimes, it is true, riverboats catch on fire and sink.

It is true, last night's game was an abysmal performance. Newton got sacked 9 times, which is enough to give Eagles fans Randall Cunningham-era flashbacks. 14 of Carolina's 21 points came in garbage time. One of the few surviving defenders with a pulse got injured.

And yet, laying it all on Newton is wrong. Because it generally helps a QB to have his receivers make reasonable efforts at catching the ball. It also helps a QB if the offensive line blocks someone - anyone - at some point during the evening. Or if the special teams stops being quite so ordinary. And all of this stuff adds up. Receivers don't catch? The QB starts trying to make impossible throws to compensate, and gets picked off. Special teams puts you in a whole? Time to play catchup, which is predictable, and yields more INTs and obvious passing downs which overstressed linemen can't handle. Wide receivers don't get open? That's more time for the QB to be holding the ball when the walls of the pocket are caving in. 

And so it goes. No, Newton didn't play well. But a QB's performance is generally the summation of a team's performance, and any real discussion of what happened and what to do next needs to take that into account.

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