Thursday, January 15, 2015

Back to the Ole Drawing Board

Turnovers were the Difference
      In my last post, I remarked, "I can say one thing with almost a certainty—the team that wins this game will most likely be the one with not just the most points, but the least amount of turnovers."
The Wrong End of the Stick
    A friend remarked, "You called the game perfect, only for the wrong team."  I had predicted a 31-17 score, and that's exactly what it proved to be, only I had called the game for the Panthers, and it was the Seahawks who came out ahead in the end.

    How true this held out in this game.   I'm also reminded of the recent NCAA college Championship Game between Ohio State and Oregon, in which OSU committed four turnovers, but yet still won the game convincingly.  I don't know if it's the Seahawks or the NFL in general, but this type of scenario does not usually take place in pro playoff games.
    Still, the Panthers held the ball at the Seahawks 13-yard line, with about six minutes to go in the game, just a short distance from making the game close.  It was 24-10, a two touchdown advantage, but with the Panthers knocking at the goal line's door, it would've brought the score to 24-17, with plenty of time to force a tie and overtime.  Even with all of the other mistakes in the game, two fumbles and an interception, our team still had a great chance for a comeback.   One errant throw made all of the difference.

     If you look at a replay, right after the snap, as QB Cam Newton is preparing to deliver the fatal throw, RB Jonathan Stewart (#28) drifts into the left flat.  Newton briefly glanced in that direction, but it was apparent that he was not throwing to him.  Instead, he
Cam to Kam
turned to his right, fixing his glance on TE Ed Dickson, but Seahawks defensive back Kam Chancellor had a laser focus on the ball, and stepping in front, grabbed the pass as if it was intended for him, and raced 89 yards for the decisive score.   But if you notice, Stewart was --- WIDE OPEN --- for a pass on the left side.  The closest defender was 5-10 yards away.  He obviously would've taken a pass for a first down, and maybe even a touchdown.  C'est la vie.  I don't know why or how our quarterback missed this read or obvious open receiver, but instead hand-delivered the ball to the other team. It would have made a HUGE difference in the game.  

    But apparently, this is the difference between a good team and a great team.  We hung tough for three quarters, but in the fourth (and decisive) one, we fell apart and made the pivotal mistake.  On the other hand, Seattle was patient, making good plays, but waiting for that one opportunity that would make the momentum shift toward their team.  This reminds me so much of the 1960's Green Bay Packers.  Coach Pete Carroll seems to be a much more mild mannered man than Vince Lombardi, but still he gets the same type of results.  I used to hate Green Bay with a passion, while I still admired them greatly.  My favorite team was the New York Jets.  In the 60's, they were still part of the old AFL. But in the NFL, I liked teams like the Baltimore Colts, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, and Dallas Cowboys.  And whenever Green Bay played one of these other teams, I always pulled for their opponent.  I remember games like the "Ice Bowl" (Dec. 1967), and there was the game with the Colts one year before (Dec. 1966) where the game (and the season) was decided on what was called "the million-dollar fumble" (by Johnny Unitas).
    So much for nostalgic, archaic NFL trivia.  Suffice to say-- each decade has had at least one dominant team, and Seattle is now a dominant team, in the mold of the 60's Packers, the 70's Steelers, the 80's 49'ers, or the 90's Patriots.   Can anyone unseat them?   Maybe, but it won't be the Panthers (at least at this particular moment).

Yep --it happens
    We've got a lot of work to do.   After the game, there was "trash talk" all over Facebook and the Internet about firing Coach Rivera and General Manager Dave Gettleman, and also about letting Cam Newton go also.  Face it-- we had a great year, in light of all of the distractions and bad circumstances that fell on the Panthers team.   Look at all of these :  (1) Losing our entire receiving corps, (2) the early foot and rib injuries to QB Cam Newton, (3) the retirement of OT Jordan Gross, (4) the court debacle with DE Greg Hardy, (5) the constant rotating of the offensive line and defensive backs, due to injuries and poor performance, (6) the late season traffic accident with Newton, and (7) Coach Rivera's house fire.

    Lately, there is talk about Salary Cap room and landing one or more franchise type players, particularly another receiver.  I'm not sure what will transpire, but one thing should be clear :  it's not time to overturn the apple cart.   We seem to be on a positive upswing, having won our division two years in a row.  It would be unprecedented to win the NFC South a third straight year, but we have as good a chance as any of the other three teams in our division.   So what's the big beef with the status quo?   We're not standing still.  The management is looking at making positive changes, while still trying to maintain the core nucleus of our team.  We may need a new receiver, or defensive back.  But we don't need a whole new team, or new staff.

Yep, it was a Pretty Good Year... after all.
        Don't lose hope.  We should've won this game.  But we were the few that believed.  Most did not give us a chance.   And even though we lost, we lost to a great team.  They were better than us, and proved it on the field.   But we can get better, without a wholesale revamping of our entire team.   So-- my message is to be patient, enjoy what we accomplished this year.  It was a major surprise to everyone in and around the NFL.  Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles are probably upset.  They finished 10-6, and we were 7-8-1, yet we got in the playoffs, and they sat home.  But it's not our fault.  We played the system, and won.  We were 3-8-1 in November, and won five straight games.

    Good luck to the Seahawks.   Actually, I'm pulling for Green Bay this time.  (believe it or not)  But Seattle's favored, and if they win, I may pull for them in the Super Bowl.   No grudges or bad feelings.  They deserved to win.   So-- maybe next year?   We'll see.  Time will tell. 

NEXT GAME-- Sunday, Sept. 13

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