Week 2 went largely as Week 1 did for me: The Panthers lost (though their play was improved for three quarters), and the Chargers were nothing short of brilliant.
Despite my initial angry posting on the matter, the Panthers honestly did play better this week. Jake Delhomme is still a bag of nerves, but he was a bit more on target today, and got Keyshawn the ball a bit more (which proved to be advantageous). Delhomme is still making really stupid throws at times, and he has to work this out. I realize that his offensive line is a total patchwork, but this was happening before Wharton and Hartwig went down. Delhomme and the Panthers do miss Steve Smith, but that’s not an excuse to not get it done with the personnel they have. A week or two more of inconsistent play and I would not be surprised to hear some clamoring for Chris Weinke to make a start. I also foresee a runningback controversy, as DeAngelo Williams was far more efficient than DeShaun Foster was today, and as such got a majority of the carries. Williams has a fearlessness that the oft-injured Foster seems to lack (and understandably so). Foster is a good runner, but something’s messing with his head. Julius Peppers had a ridiculously good game, too — eight tackles, three sacks, and a blocked field goal. It’s a shame Chris Gamble with his lack of judgement threw his team under the bus not once but twice — the first time being that ridiculously idiotic attempt at a lateral to a guy who had no clue it was coming to him (the Panthers had a touchdown lead at this point) but also for getting the 15-yard face mask penalty at the end of the game that made it a chipshot for Longwell to boot through for the Viking win in OT. Chris Gamble gave the Vikings the win, as they didn’t play very well at all today. At the very least, Gamble should sit out a game or two and face a stiff fine; I personally think the coaching staff should release him. Those types of mistakes are inexcusable, especially since he’s been in the league for a while and should know how these things work. It was a Pop Warner play; totally inexcusable at this level. I, personally, was shocked that he was even permitted to finish the game on the field. I would have benched him. Carolina gets reeling Tampa Bay next week in a very early must-win game for both teams. Going 0-3 to start the season in the NFC South is a pretty good bet to be a kiss of death for the playoffs, especially considering how good Atlanta and New Orleans have been for the first two weeks.
Thank God for the San Diego Chargers and Shawne Merriman in particular. I loved the shutout of the Raiders, and they came close again today, winning 40-7. Cam Cameron gave Philip Rivers a little bit of room to throw the football in this game and he certainly made the most of it going 25-35 with 235 yards and a touchdown. I love the depth of this team, particularly at runningback — LaDainian Tomlinson’s skills are very well-documented, but Michael Turner is a stud in his own right, and would start on any other team. Marty Schottenheimer has got to love having a guy like him spelling Tomlinson when he needs to take a few downs off or, God forbid, he becomes injured. And that defense — oh my God. The Chargers clearly don’t miss Steve Foley at all. They are all over the place, led by Merriman. I wish I had a chance to watch this game; sadly, NFL GameCast on ESPN.com had to suffice. I fully realize the Raiders and Titans aren’t exactly the class of the NFL, but the Chargers are doing what they need to do — beating up on the teams they should beat up on, so when they get to the meat of the schedule, which begins in Week 4 as they travel to Baltimore to face off against the extremely defensively talented Ravens (the Chargers have a bye next week), they will have some confidence and momentum going in. Working Rivers gradually more and more into the game plan will prove to be advantageous for the Chargers. It worked for a guy named Roethlisomething…;)