Monday, December 29, 2008
Brethren: The last game of the regular season provided just as much drama as you would expect from a team that can't shake its "Cardiac Cats" moniker. Leading 30-10 going into the final quarter, the Carolina Panthers promptly gave up 21 straight points to a humming pass-happy New Orleans offense, and found themselves down 31-30. New Orleans' only problem was they left over 3 minutes on the clock to a team that knows how to run a two-minute offense.
Either that, or Steve Smith did his Superman bailout thing again. On the first play of the potential game-winning drive, Jake Delhomme bought time in a pocket that was quickly collapsing, and as he was about to get nailed by two defenders, heaved a jump ball downfield towards a double-teamed Smitty. Result: another amazing catch by Smitty, a clock-killing drive, and a John Kasay field goal that wrapped up a 33-31 win, the NFC South championship, and the #2 seed in the NFC for the playoffs.
I shouldn't be surprised by Steve Smith anymore, but I am. He fought over two defenders, secured the ball, and made my life a lot more happy. He's just unreal. He did this against Green Bay earlier this year, and he's done it countless times in his career as a Panther. I thank my lucky stars for Steve Smith every Sunday.
So in a game that almost quick-sanded away, the Carolina Panthers eeked one out, and established a 12-4 record on the season for just the second time in team history.
One more thing before we get to our more ramblingish thoughts: on Christmas Day, I gave myself the pleasure of re-reading the Carolina Panthers preview that the Sports Brethren wrote for Deadspin. I don't mention this to toot our own horns (because, seriously, we pretty much nailed every aspect of that preview), but just to remember where this season started. It's far from over, but it was good to reflect. As this blog has become exceedingly Panther-specific, I can't imagine a better season for us to do it.
More thoughts, desde:
Brethren (cont'd): For the final time this regular season, the patented, bulleted Brethren thoughts:
- There's no way John Fox would ever admit to this, but I kinda saw this fourth quarter lead give-away and reclamation as exactly how I would do it if I were playing a video game. After going three and out as New Orleans had made it a six point game by effortlessly scoring two passing touchdowns, wouldn't you at least entertain purposefully shanking a punt so you can give the other team a short field to work with, give them the TD, the lead, and leave enough time on the clock to make the game-winning drive? I mean, in a video game, that scenario definitely goes through my mind. Now, knowing the Silver Fox, I can guarantee this is NOT what he was thinking. But it worked out all the same, huh?
- Another fantastic day by Smash N Dash. DeAngelo set the single-season record for a Carolina Panthers running back and capped a break-out season by cranking out 178 dagger-to-the-heart yards, and several big ones on the last drive. Stewart had one ridiculous run where he was stuffed by five guys in the backfield, never went down, and bounced outside for a dozen yards -- and he had a solid touchdown run.
- The Panthers coaching staff's propensity to go conservative on offense with a lead two weeks in a rows scares the shit out of me. I will be so pissed if that's the reason our season ends in the playoffs, because at this point, it's just become so predictable.
- With that said, I love that we won and got the bye week. Should be enough time to get our big boys in the middle of our D-Line back and prepare for the first playoff game in Charlotte since 2003. Whichever meek bird we're playing, I know damn well the Queen City will be rocking.
Fuck. and. yes.
Nacho: On Saturday night the SportsCousin, aka Trey, walked up to spend the night at my place and before saying hello or anything, he asked "Do you think there should be seeded playoffs?" Sure, we hadn't seen each other in over a week, and the last time we were supposed to see one another was when Trey didn't pick me up and take me to the airport, the Pats could miss the playoffs with one less win than the Panthers, and this is a legitimate question with a great debate behind it. Should a team like the Cardinals or Chargers get to the post season over a team with a better record? Trey and I both decided that yes, the playoffs should be seeded. Trey said when he brought this up to his coworkers, their first complaint was "What if you win your division and don't get in?"
We decided that Division Champs is good for breaking tie breaks, but should not guarantee a post season berth. The more I think about it, I find it odd that I took this stance so willingly, but it's true. The NFC South was the best division in pro football this year by leaps and bounds. It speaks volumes that yesterday, when the Panthers beat the Saints, was the first time all season that the visiting team of an NFC South vs NFC South match up won. The NFC South was ridiculous and everyone finished above .500. In summation: I've got every reason to defend Division Champs = playoffs, and yet, I don't. Probably because we only lost four games this season.
Anyway, the Cats continue building momentum and are playing the best ball they have been all year. It's been a helluva season, and one I won't soon forget. I've loved the highs and lows, and I'm still kind of flabbergasted that DeAngelo broke our rushing record in a platooned backfield.
I trust the Silver Fox won't let these fellers rest on their haunches and I look forward to facing a worthy opponent in two weeks.