Saturday, November 9, 2013

This Bird Don't Fly

This past Sunday, the Carolina Panthers made believers out of a lot of fans [and a few football analysts] by winning their fourth (4th) straight game in a row, 34-10, over the Atlanta Falcons.  The 2012 NFC South division champion Falcons looked nothing like their former selves from a year ago, as the Panthers, after playing a mediocre first half themselves, destroyed any Falcons hopes by scoring two touchdowns within one minute in the fourth quarter.

One pivotal play seemed to turn a close game in the Panthers' favor.  At 17-10, the Falcons were within striking distance of a tie game in the fourth quarter.  On third down, QB Cam Newton completed a successful pass in Falcons territory to Brandon LaFell, and the usually reliable wide receiver had the ball stripped, but somehow, through a fluke bounce, ended up recovering his own fumble on the eight-yard line.

Now I'm not superstitious.  I hardly ever glance at a horoscope, and only read Chinese fortunes for fun- but the 8-yard line has been both a good and bad omen for the Panthers.  In week one, at home against the Seattle Seahawks, the Panthers dominated most of the game, while still holding a very slim lead.  Then, while on his way to the end zone for a go-ahead score, DeAngelo Williams fumbled away the ball -- and the game -- late in the fourth quarter on the Seattle 8-yard line.

If LaFell had lost this fumble, it too could've spelled defeat for the Panthers. Even though the Falcons would've been pinned inside their own 10-yard line, they would have had the ball.  And perhaps more importantly, they would have denied the Panthers an incredible opportunity to put the game away.  It would've been a completely different ball game.  But alas, this time the Panthers did NOT lose the ball, and Cam Newton ran it in on the next play for a touchdown and a 24-10 lead.  And to top it off, two plays and 30 seconds later, Carolina cornerback Drayton Florence shocked everyone by intercepting a Matt Ryan pass and running it into the end zone for a "pick six" and a 21-point lead.  A field goal was added minutes later for additional icing on the cake.

Now- the Panthers are in high gear, winning their last four games in a row.  However, their next opponent on Sunday, the San Francisco 49'ers, have won five games in a row, and are also playing extremely well.  This undoubtedly is the biggest game in recent Panthers history.  Their last "big game" -in the 2008 NFL playoffs- ended in disappointment, losing to the Arizona Cardinals at home, 33-13, as their former QB Jake Delhomme had six turnovers.  Let's hope this time, the Panthers can play their best game.  Keep your fingers crossed.  They will need it against the 49'ers.

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