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Panthers Got Defensive

October 8, 2015

The Carolina Panthers relied heavily on their defense while remaining perfect. The Panthers forced five turnovers on the other side of the ball en-route to a 37-23 victory over Tampa Bay.

Defensive back Josh Norman led the defense with two interceptions, returning one 46 yards for a touchdown and the other 34 yards to set up another touchdown.

The offense was equally opportunistic as one of their touchdowns came on a fumble recovery return by tight end Ed Dickson after he grabbed a fumble by Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart in midair and lumber 58 yards for a score.

Cam Newton did not put up his usual numbers but he was virtually mistake-free in sometimes sloppy conditions. Newton threw scoring passes of six and 12 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. while throwing for 124 yards and rushing for 51 more yards.

Photo: Josh Norman

The Panthers started out fast on defense as it recovered a fumbled snap by Jameis Winston on Tampa Bay’s second play of the game. Winston, the rookie quarterback who was the first player chosen in the 2015 NFL draft, also threw interceptions to Kurt Coleman and Thomas Davis in addition to Norman’s two thefts. Carolina’s defense played without its best player, Luke Kuechly, who sat out his third game with a concussion. The Panthers improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2003, when they began with five straight victories and went on to appear in the Super Bowl. The Bucs (1-3) have lost five straight in the NFC South rivalry and have dropped 11 consecutive homes games.

NFL Injuries Mount

I don’t know if it is just me, but it sure seems like injuries in the NFL are mounting at an alarming rate.

It’s only October but already the NFL is in the midst of an injury epidemic. Big names go down weekly. Each time a team loses a player to an injury, it hurts the team, the fans, and the overall NFL product.

I understand that injury carnage has been a part of the game forever. But like I said, it seems to be an issue now. I looked at some numbers and learned that injuries have been on a sharp rise for the last four years in the league.

Photo: Jordy Nelson

My research also led to the fact that many blame the surging injury numbers to the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement that went into effect in 2011, limiting the amount of offseason practice time and the number of practices players can be in full pads and potentially hitting in training camp.

While that would seem to be a good thing, saving players from wear and tear, coaches are commenting that it is having the exact opposite effect. They talk of there being a difference between being in “shape’’ and being in “football shape.’’ Between a “preparation level’’ and a “competition level.’’

I think there is something to that line of thinking. Hamstrings, tendons and bones are all supporting bigger, stronger, faster bodies. It is likely that they just aren’t being prepped properly for the demands of the game. In 2010, the year before the new CBA, the NFL lost 1,276 man games to injury. By 2013, the number soared to 1,600.

When I was a kid, it was news when there was a major injury on the football field. Now, it is commonplace. And today’s athlete is in much better shape physically. Yet, the injuries mount. And many of them occur away from contact.
Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson had his leg give out turning up field after a catch. Denver star tackle Ryan Clady tore his ACL in May during an innocent offseason workout. Jacksonville’s defensive end Dante Fowler, the third overall pick in the draft, tore his ACL in rookie minicamp, his leg buckling on a pass-rush move. Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy came up lame merely running down field in a passing drill.

Photo: LeSean McCoy

I think it is a combination of the new CBA and the fact that athletes are bigger and stronger which means that they are more injury prone.

And I did not even get into the even more alarming rate of concussions.



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