Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Carolina meltdown

Let me see if I have this right. The Carolina Panthers went 15-1 during the regular season and beat two very good teams (Seattle and Arizona) in the playoffs. Yet one is left to wonder -- how could a team that played so stupidly in the Super Bowl have ever accomplished those feats in the first place?

In no particular order, consider the following bonehead gaffes the Panthers were guilty of in Santa Clara......

It became quickly obvious that Denver's defensive front was going to put immediate and strong pressure on Cam Newton. On any given play, they had eight men in the "box". Yet Carolina never adapted using more blockers to stave off the onslaught. Either that, or quick slants over the middle and screen passes will keep a blitzing defense honest. Did you see Carolina attempt a single screen pass? Dumb.

Newton himself missed several wide-open receivers, and when he did hit them in the "hands", they couldn't hold on. That's somewhere between dumb, incompetent, and choke city.

Newton also fumbled the ball three times. One resulted in a touchdown for Denver on the same play. Another led to a Broncos' TD a couple plays later. That's 14 points Cam handed the other guys because he was too thick-headed to realize the situations he was in. Doh.

Their running back, long prone to fumbles, chipped in another one on a routine tackle. What is any running back's first responsibility? Protect the ball. Maybe they gain yardage and maybe they don't, but under no circumstances fumble the damn ball. He did. Anybody home upstairs?

On a Carolina punt, their coverage team went brain dead (though they had the Bronco returner surrounded), and let him race 50 yards down the field. Earth to Panther coverage team -- if you don't see a fair-catch signal (there wasn't one), it's usually a good idea to tackle the speedy guy for the other guys that is catching the ball. Hello???

And oh my, all the other boneheaded plays. False starts, delays of game, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, offsides, holding, etc. Were these the Carolina Panthers that romped through the regular season and early rounds of the playoffs -- or did they change into the Detroit Lions when they landed in the Bay area?

Their field goal kicker clanked an attempt off a goalpost from very makeable range. The coaching staff (and Cam) were clueless when it came to clock management, much less altering their strategy when Plan A was blowing up in their faces.

It's not like Denver was a superior team going in. The bookies had them as a 5.5 point underdog. True, the Broncos' defense lived up their billing as the #1 unit in the league, but also true is Peyton Manning was underwhelming. He didn't do anything special. Just the usual wounded duck passes and got sacked a few times himself. Their total team effort over the course of the game could be considered quite average.

But add it all up and what did you have? One team spent the last two weeks developing a game plan that might take the other by surprise. They were smart, and capitalized on the blunders of their opponents.

The other team remained in flat-out dumb mode throughout. Panthers somehow morphed into deer in the headlights on the biggest stage, and didn't have a clue what to do next. Consider them road-kill. Carolina couldn't get out of it's own way.

As they say, sometimes there just ain't no fixing stupid. Any team that played that dumb had no business winning a game. And so they got rightfully trounced. It will be a long flight back to Charlotte.

Maybe next year. What's ironic is Cam Newton might well get the regular season MVP award. That voting already took place and the results have been kept secret. But for his performance in the Super Bowl, he should be awarded a dunce cap and made to sit in a corner somewhere.

[On an unrelated note, here's a shout out to my bro CC. One of the most terrific people yours truly has ever had the pleasure of associating with. Hope everything works out down in Florida with your son. Also a die-hard NY Jets fan, but I won't go there. LOL]

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