The Carolina Panthers didn’t bother to show up for their Sunday night game against the Seattle Seahawks, losing by a score of 40-7.
There’s nothing to sulk about, and there’s definitely nothing to dance about, so everything you’re about to read is a walk off.
I understand that the Panthers are not a good team and that the Seahawks are the best team in NFC, but this was far worse than I could have imagined. At least Carolina has hung around in most games and have been on the wrong end of some bad breaks. On Sunday night, they didn’t look like they belonged in the league. There was no effort, no pride. Just a team that was ready to head back to Charlotte and get this season over with.
It started with the “tie controversy.” Sorry, but I don’t buy that Cam Newton was benched for the first series because he forgot to wear a tie on the team plane. Rivera talked about the team still being alive for the playoffs, which was mathematically true prior to Sunday nights game. If you still believe that you’re fighting for a playoff spot, you don’t bench the league MVP for the first series of a must win game. Especially over something so trivial as not wearing a tie. It was a non-story that Rivera made a story and I believe that there’s something more to it.
The interception that set-up Seattle’s field goal wasn’t Derek Anderson’s fault, but it just goes to show how bad things have been this year. Anderson lays an easy pass off to a wide open Mike Tolbert, it hits him right in the chest, goes in the air, and is picked off. You just knew how the game was going to unfold after that.
It didn’t help that Carolina’s usually stout run defense was non-existent against a Seattle run offense that has struggled all year.
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The Panthers have four games left in the season. As I mentioned in my preview, they are playing for next year right now. Guys need to prove that they are worth keeping around. And I’m not just talking about the players. Coaches have to feel like their job is on the line. I know that they were in the Super Bowl less than 12 months ago, but this is a “what have you done for me lately?” league. John Fox was in the Super Bowl, lost in the divisional round of the playoffs the following year, and was fired.
I’m not advocating that Rivera be fired, I actually think he’s a solid head coach who was let down this year by his general manager and offensive coordinator.
David Gettleman didn’t improve the team in the offseason. And this isn’t about Josh Norman, because Daryl Worley and James Bradberry have been the two best defensive players outside of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis this year. He failed to address the offensive line, put too much faith in Kelvin Benjamin’s return, and didn’t add an outside pass rusher despite the scheme being so predicated on getting to the quarterback. Gettleman drafted another defensive tackle in the first round and then signed another one, because you can never have enough big guys in the middle.
Then there’s Shula, who seemingly refuses to acknowledge that the offensive line isn’t good and wants to take shot after shot downfield. They’ve dialed back the running plays for Newton, which wasn’t smart because his legs were the best weapon in the NFL last year, and didn’t implement any quick passes or screens into the game plan. I know that the offensive line went through a ton of injuries, but these issues were evident from the first game of the season, when the line was healthy.
The Panthers are a fragile team right now. How they handle these final four games will be key moving into next year.