NFC South: 2010 Week 7 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Panthers 23, 49ers 20

October, 24, 2010
A few thoughts on the Carolina Panthers, 23-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

What it means: Although the Buffalo Bills remain a legitimate threat, scratch the Panthers from the list of candidates to join the 2008 Detroit Lions at 0-16. The victory came against a horrible San Francisco team and it’s not really going to change things for a team that’s destined for a coaching change and major personnel moves in the offseason. But, at least for a day, fans can enjoy a win and there might be a few smiles inside the Panthers’ offices and locker room.

Irony of the week: Back in 2007, coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney went out and signed quarterback David Carr. That season, he came in and played so badly that Fox and Hurney developed twitches that surfaced every time you mentioned Carr’s name. Finally, that can stop because Fox and Hurney finally got something out of Carr. Now a backup in San Francisco, Carr was forced to enter the game after starter Alex Smith was injured. Throwing into double coverage with just over a minute left, Carr was intercepted by cornerback Richard Marshall. That set up John Kasay’s game-winning field goal.

What’s next: The Panthers travel to St. Louis next Sunday. I’m not going to get carried away, but a two-game winning streak is not out of the question.

Wrap-up: Buccaneers 18, Rams 17

October, 24, 2010
A few thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 18-17 victory against the St. Louis Rams.

What it means: The Bucs are 4-2 and in second place in the NFC South, only one game behind the Atlanta Falcons in the win column and one game ahead of the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the loss column. Say what you want about the quality of the opponents the Bucs have beaten, but they already have won one more game than they did all of last season. Fans were ready to run general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris out of town when they gutted the team last year and, at times, looked like they were clueless last season. It’s starting to look like Dominik and Morris had a plan and knew what they were doing.

Hindsight: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. For the first time in franchise history, the Buccaneers have a quarterback who can go out and win games on his own. That’s Josh Freeman. He’s in his second season and first full year as a starter and he’s already showing a knack for pulling out games at the last second. He did it again against the Rams, throwing a 1-yard touchdown pass to Cadillac Williams with 10 seconds remaining. In the past, guys like Doug Williams and Trent Dilfer made some occasional late-game plays after Tampa Bay’s defense kept the Bucs close all game. But Freeman’s doing it on a regular basis and he’s the one keeping the Bucs in games. It always seemed like there was a law in Tampa Bay that, if the Bucs were going to win, they had to do it with strong defense and a game manager at quarterback. With Freeman, the law has changed.

Best personnel move: With running back Williams struggling, the Bucs gave undrafted rookie LaGarrette Blount 11 carries. He gave them 72 yards and had a 46-yard run negated by a penalty.

What’s next: The Bucs are going to have to make two West Coast trips in the next four weeks. But the good news is those trips are to Arizona next week and San Francisco on Nov. 21. At least on the surface, those games look entirely winnable and so does a Nov. 14 home game with Carolina.

Wrap-up: Browns 30, Saints 17

October, 24, 2010
Wrapping up Cleveland's 30-17 win against New Orleans.

What it means: I’d like to say there’s no shame in losing to the Cleveland Browns, but I can’t. There’s no way the defending Super Bowl champions should lose to a team like Cleveland in the Superdome. The Saints fell behind, 20-3, with Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy making his second career start and throwing for a whopping 35 yards. When you have Drew Brees at quarterback and a roster like the Saints do, you should win this game simply by showing up. Apparently, that’s exactly what the Saints thought.

What’s next: I don’t want to overemphasize the significance of one loss, but this one puts the Saints in a very tough spot. They’ve got a very good Pittsburgh team coming to town next Sunday night. With the Atlanta Falcons suddenly looking very good, back-to-back losses could really put the Saints in a spin they might not be able to break.

Irony of the week: The Saints, who won a Super Bowl with an onside kick, got burned by a fake punt by Cleveland that turned into a 68-yard gain.