What it means: The Panthers lead the league in moral victories, but they’re 1-3. They went into a tough venue and kept the game close until the end. That’s nice and there’s lots of hope for the future. But the Panthers still have a little way to go before they can win games on the road against good teams. High-priced kicker Olindo Mare didn’t exactly help matters by missing a field-goal attempt and having another blocked.
What I liked: The Panthers got DeAngelo Williams in rhythm in the running game for the first time this season. I know fans have been calling for Jonathan Stewart to start ahead of Williams and get the vast majority of the carries. Stewart’s a very good running back, but I honestly believe Williams is better. He’s more dynamic. Other than Steve Smith, he’s the most explosive player on this roster.
Cam’s calm: The most encouraging thing about the Panthers is rookie quarterback Cam Newton. This guy kept Carolina in the game and he bounced back nicely after throwing an early interception that was returned for a touchdown. His demeanor was impressive and you can’t say the same for counterpart Jay Cutler. The Chicago quarterback was making faces at teammates and freaking out at every sign of trouble.
What I didn’t like: Ron Rivera knows the Bears pretty well. He should have known better than to ever punt or kick the ball anywhere near Devin Hester.
What else I didn’t like: The Panthers couldn’t stop the run. Then again, that’s not at all surprising. They haven’t done that for a few years, and that probably isn’t going to change anytime soon with linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis out for the season.
Mr. Consistency: Carolina’s Charles Johnson has a sack in all four games this season. He had a six-game streak last season. This guy has done a nice job of filling the shoes of Julius Peppers. Johnson doesn’t take over a game the way Peppers sometimes did. But he also doesn’t disappear for weeks at a time, the way Peppers often did. Carolina has tried repeatedly to address the defensive tackle position. Nothing’s worked. This team has to go out and find a stud defensive tackle in free agency or the draft next year.
What’s next: The Panthers host the Saints next Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.