Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain checks in with his latest On the Blitz column, reviewing Sunday's letdown loss to the Carolina Panthers.
We kind of expected Carolina to come out and try to get the ball to Steve Smith and to get DeShaun Foster going. They were able to get a few big plays on us with some unusual plays, whether it was a toss play or a gadget play, or a reverse. We expected them to do those things but we didn't execute well enough to stop them on some of them.
I thought that Nate Clements did a good job of keeping Smith in check. He did get that explosive run on the end around, although there was a block to the back penalty that happened right in front of an official. You can't rely on the refs to give you any breaks though. We have to make our own breaks and we didn't on that play.
I thought those young guys in the secondary also played well for us. Dashon Goldson made some nice plays in the game and he played very hard. T. Brown also played hard when he had his opportunities so they need to continue working and filling in like that as long as Shawntae Spencer and Marcus Hudson are out.
DeAngelo Williams also had a couple of explosive runs due to guys being out of place and a couple of missed tackles here and there. He's a good up and coming running back and you can't give a guy like that as much leeway as we did at times.
We got some pressure on Vinny Testaverde although it didn't show up in sacks as much as we would have liked. He was aware of the pressure that was in his face and he's a veteran quarterback who knew he couldn't hold the ball too long, nor was he going to be able to really scramble, and so he did a good job of getting rid of it. I thought our guys in the back did a pretty good job of covering their guys and we were able to get some incompletions and a few turnovers by him rushing his throws.
The two touchdown passes were just communication issues. We weren't on the same page on those plays as a defense. Communication is the key to any great successful defense and you've got to know what you are doing before the play starts. If you don't have that, you'll see breakdowns like those.
On the one to the tight end Jeff King, we should have had Testaverde sacked. We had two guys in his face, but he pumped faked and both guys left their feet and he was able to reload and find his target in the end zone.
We were down 17 points at the half and we knew we had to come out and get some big plays as a defense and I think Michael Lewis' interception gave us that boost.
That was a heads up play by him and he made good use of his hands to snatch that one.
Then Nate Clements made a great play on the punt return. He's a threat with the ball in his hands and those two big plays were momentum shifts for us, as the offense was able to come away with 14 points and make it a three point game.
Unfortunately we had the muffed punt and we were put in a bad situation, but as a defense, that's the time where you've got to put out a fire and turn something bad into good. We weren't able to do that, and it's been something we've had some problems with all year long. The red zone is an area where we really need to force field goals or get a take away to stop them completely, and instead they got a touchdown. That was really the critical point and we didn't get it done.
Still trailing by ten in the fourth quarter, we needed another big stop and they were able to put together a long 83-yard drive on us. Everyone kind of took turns making mistakes on that drive and they took advantage of us and wound up with another touchdown that really put the game out of reach.
I got called for a neutral zone infraction on that play which handed them a first down. They gave a hard count and I flinched and it drew the tackle. That's a judgment call by the referee. Normally they won't call you for off-sides if you get back before the snap, but because the offensive lineman flinched, they said I drew him off. Sometimes those go your way and sometimes they don't. In this instance it went their way.
All in all, it was a game where we just didn't make enough big plays. We didn't play the way we knew we had to play to win this game. There were things we did well, but we didn't do them well consistently enough.
We've got four games left, and basically we just need to start playing our best field so that we can build off of that for next season.