Panthers unable to handle Niners bait
Posted January 12
Updated January 13
The season ended Sunday with an out-of-character loss for the Carolina Panthers. Before that, they boasted a stretch of wins to claim the NFC South Division and played pretty clean football.
Clean as in fewer mistakes than their opponent. Clean as in not a lot of dead-ball penalties. Sunday against San Francisco, the Panthers were hit with eight penalties, including two personal fouls.
I asked Luke Kuechly and Captain Munnerlyn if that was because of the emotions of the playoffs or simply uncharacteristic mistakes.
Kuechly said it was out of character and they needed to control of their emotions and just do their job.
Munnerlyn told me his personal foul was an early statement but emphasized "EARLY."
None of the extra-curricular activities should seep-out in crunch time. He went on to explain how they knew the Niners would test their patience, hoping to draw penalties “so they could pick up cheap yards.”
The problem was the Panthers took the bait. Munnerlyn got flagged for a head-butt to get that ball rolling.
But what about the head-butt by Anquan Boldin that went flagless? What about the Niners having 12 men on the field that went unnoticed? What about the 3rd down, end zone call on Panthers defensive back Drayton Florence for not playing the ball? Was that a catchable ball?
I probably shouldn’t ask that since it was in the same end zone where the final play against the Patriots happened.
They are a part of the inexact activity of sports. Those penalties were not why the Panthers lost their much-anticipated, first playoff game since 2008.
The season ended because the Niners came to town with a full deck on offense. Colin Kaepernick had Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis running routes -- something he didn’t in the Panthers win in San Fran.
The season ended for Carolina, in-part, because of their offensive red-zone woes. In the first half, the Panthers had seven, yes SEVEN, goal-to-go plays and only got THREE points out of it.
Cam Newton, Jordan Gross and Greg Olsen said that was the difference between Sunday’s loss and the November win on Niners turf. They knew 10 points wouldn’t be enough to beat San Francisco this time.
It’s all a part of a growing process as a team and players. Many Panthers got their first taste of NFL playoff football and they hope it’s not another five years until they make it again.
As frustrating as it was for the Panthers playoff run to end, think back to the helplessness of a 1-3 start to start the season. The last thing on our minds were the playoffs.
Now the Panthers need to figure out a way to win a post-season game, something they haven’t done since Jan. 15, 2005.