Panthers End Season With Blowout Win
The Carolina Panthers ended their spectacular regular season by defeating the Buccaneers 38-10. The Panthers have locked up home field advantage throughout the entire NFC playoffs, their first time finishing as a #1 seed in franchise history.
Cam Newton played a phenomenal game. He completed 80.7% of his passing, tossed 2 TDs, and ran for 2 more. With his top wide receiver out for the game with an injury, Newton led the offense down the field over and over and almost certainly cemented his place as the leagueâ€™s MVP. The incompletions were dropped balls and throw-aways. He didnâ€™t throw a bad pass all day.
Rookie receiver Devin Funchess had the biggest game of his young career, notching 127 yards and a TD. Without Jonathan Stewart or Fozzy Whitaker playing, rookie Cameron Artis-Payne took the reins as the lead halfback and added an untouched rushing TD.
Carolinaâ€™s defense looked like it returned to form after a couple of poor performances. The unit forced 3 turnovers and the team ended up leading the league in turnover ratio. Putting points on the board after forcing turnovers was a major ingredient for success during the regular season and the game today showed why that quality is so valuable.
The Panthers will play in two weeks at Bank of America Stadium against the lowest winning seed from the NFC Wild Card Round. The opposing team will be determined next week, but there is a high possibility that team will be the Seahawks. Seattle just blew out the Cardinals in Arizona and look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Not to take away from Carolinaâ€™s accomplishments, but the playoffs could hold a tough road ahead.
Carolina has had the best regular season in franchise history. Cam Newton is establishing himself as a top 3 quarterback and arguably played the best out of any other at the position this season. The defense played opportunistically all season and is rounding back into shape at the right time. The Panthers needed to build momentum going into the postseason after suffering their first regular season loss in over a year last week to the Falcons.
The beautiful thing about the NFL is that anything can happen, especially in the playoffs. The Panthers cannot get cocky about their outstanding record because one more loss results in a disappointing ending. The Panthers should be proud, but should be hungry to improve as they are not perfect.
Carolinaâ€™s pass rushing could improve, as neither Charles Johnson nor Jared Allen put consistent pressure on QB drop backs. Drop balls have plagued Ted Ginn, Philly Brown, and Devin Funchess this year and a drive-ruining dropped ball in a close game could change a win to a loss. Camâ€™s protection has been mostly good all season, but the Buccaneers blitzing packages exposed some flaws in the offensive line today. Sacks lead to stalled drives and that canâ€™t happen in the playoffs.
At 15-1, the Panthers should be considered the team to beat in the playoffs. Although their play has not been consistently perfect, they show signs of excellence in every game and their resilient determination always gives them a chance to win the football game. The regular season may be over, but the Panthersâ€™ journey is far from it.