Penalty controversy aside, Panthers legit
Posted November 19, 2013
1. Buried underneath all the hot sports takes regarding controversial endings inside Bank of America Stadium was another statement game from the Carolina Panthers. In back-to-back weeks this squad got the best of the San Francisco 49ers in a defensive slobber-knocker on the road and topped the New England Patriots with a clock-melting touchdown drive on Monday Night Football.
Are you not entertained?
Pundits have spent the majority of the season moving the goalposts and setting new objectives for the Panthers.
After they destroyed the New York Giants, everyone chalked it up to beating a bad team. After Carolina reeled off three wins in a row, the football Illuminati shrugged their shoulders and pointed at the combined record of the teams they conquered. Even after going to San Francisco and besting Jim Harbaugh, the talking points centered on the depleted 49ers offense and what was up with Colin Kaepernick.
The same is happening after a win over New England. Never mind that Carolina's defense kept Tom Brady and a fully healthy Patriots offense in check. Don't focus on Cam Newton's continued maturation process. It won't be viewed as a signature victory for Ron Rivera, who weeks ago was dealing with reports that the front office was vetting possible coaching replacements.
The win will be tainted in the eyes of many thanks to the way it ended. And that's probably best for the Carolina Panthers as they can continue carrying a chip on their shoulder.
2. Newton wasn't perfect against New England, but he outweighed any forced throw or bad sack with his ability to keep plays alive. He scrambled on third down three times against the Patriots and converted a first down each time. Newton dropped jaws when, according to ESPN Stats & Information, he eluded defenders and covered 75.8 yards on the ground for a 14-yard gain.
Then came the game-winning drive. Newton worked out of the shotgun to complete short passes and scramble when necessary. His 25-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. capped off excellent clock management from the Panthers coaching staff, leaving the Patriots with 59 seconds left in the game.
3. Now, about the officials picking up the flag and ruling there was no penalty on the final play of the game: Let's just admit the Panthers got away with it.
The official explanation from the guys in stripes was that the pass was uncatchable. How could it have been when Rob Gronkowski was busy telling Luke Kuechly that he didn't want to slow dance with him at prom? While the ball was dubbed uncatchable because it was slightly underthrown and intercepted four yards in front of Gronkowski, that doesn't mean he couldn't have made a move for it had Kuechly not hugged him in the end zone.
“I’m not trying to sit here and make an excuse that he held me at the end of the game," Gronkowski told the Boston Herald.
We see what you did there, Gronk. But nobody outside of Boston wants to hear it.
Besides, the angst would be just as loud had the pass interference call stood. Fans and pundits would be screaming that players should be allowed to mix it up in the end zone and that officials shouldn't determine a critical moment in the game.
That's why I'm perfectly cool with just saying the Carolina Panthers got a break last night. The Patriots should be rather familiar with those by now.
4. The Carolina Panthers had a scary moment in the third quarter when defensive end Charles Johnson left the game with an apparent MCL sprain when New England tackle Marcus Cannon swept his legs after a block. While there was no flag thrown on the play, many expect Cannon to be hit with a fine from the NFL.
From that point on the Panthers struggled to establish a pass rush on Brady.
According to NFL Network's Albert Breer, Cannon found Johnson after the game and apologized for the leg whip.
5. There were no such apologies from Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, but he did have a special message for Aqib Talib after the game.