I’ve had a lot of reservations in the weeks leading up to the kickoff of the NFL season about the performance of the Panthers and the Chargers. The Panthers looked awful in preseason; they looked flat and one-dimensional. The Chargers were entering the 2007 season with almost total turnover of their coaching staff, headed up by Norv Turner, who had won two games as head coach of the Raiders in 2006 and held a 58-82-1 record overall.
After today, I felt a little better. The Panthers, while it appears they still have some work to do, played really well today (especially in the second half) in defeating St. Louis 27-13. I was concerned that it took a whole half (and an injury to Rams offensive lineman Orlando Pace) for the Panthers to put anything resembling pressure on Marc Bulger, but they eventually did. Consider me a fan of new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson’s new scheme — the Panthers hadn’t called plays that creatively at any time in John Fox’s tenure. Jake Delhomme was as calm as he’s ever been, and he wasn’t running for his life, either. The Rams aren’t a slouch of a team, either. Let’s see how the Panthers do against Houston next week — that will be an interesting game to see Matt Schaub go up against an actual defense for the first time this year. :)
Chargers-Bears was, to put it lightly, quite the defensive exhibition. Both defenses were all over the field, hitting extremely hard and making their presences felt. The Chargers made some crucial mistakes on offense, and it was their defense that did a marvelous job in keeping it a 3-0 game into the half. The Bears had LaDainian Tomlinson’s number throughout the game — but there’s something about that LT. You can’t keep a good man down long, so if he couldn’t run with it, he’d throw it, and throw it he did to Antonio Gates for the go-ahead touchdown (which ended up being the game winner). This is one of those games that also will remind Charger fans just how lucky we are to have Michael Turner spelling Tomlinson in relief. He’s very much a changeup back, almost a perfect compliment to Tomlinson’s style, and he helped soften up the Bear D so that the Chargers could finally make an impact. Fourteen points won’t cut it in that high-octane Charger offense, though, so they do have some work to do. I think today made a good case for Tomlinson to resume taking some reps in the preseason. He’s been held out of preseason the last two years to avoid injury, but it also means he has to find his game shape in the regular season, not exactly the best time to find that.
Keep your thoughts with the Bills and, specifically, tight end Kevin Everett. He underwent surgery for a potentially serious cervical spine injury suffered on the field earlier today after he covered a kickoff. After the violent helmet-to-helmet collision, he showed no signs of movement. It’s a very frightening reminder of just how violent and dangerous football can be.