These NFL playoffs have had mind-boggling plays that just shouldn’t happen on a football field. A few examples of the craziness we’ve seen.. Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh missed a chip shot 27 yard field goal, or when Aaron Rodgers completed two Hail Mary’s to force overtime! What happen next, the overtime coin flip had to be redone because the coin didn’t flip! You can’t make up these things up, there is just something different about playoff football.
The Carolina Panthers followed suit with a crazy, unexplainable game against the two-time NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. Here are my top five takeaways from the Panthers victory other than I had a heart attack again. Which is nothing new for this team the matter the situation!
Cardiac Cats do it Again
This team has a tendency to get out to big leads and take their foot off the proverbial paddle and make it a nerve-racking experience for all fans involved. It happened again on Sunday as the Panthers jumped out to a commanding 31-0 at half, which I might add is our largest halftime lead in franchise history. However, in the typical panther fashion they had to make it exciting in the second half being outscored by the Seahawks 24-0.
It’s the only way we know how to play football games and as a fan, you’d think we’d be used to it by now, but trust me, you don’t if your heart doesn’t skip a beat during a Panther game there something wrong. We just have a unique way of doing things it just puts fans at risk for a heart attack or the need for alcohol to get through a game. One way or the other we keep pounding and find a way to win football games at all cost its what I love about this team despite the heart attacks they like to give us.
Defense set the tone early
One of the keys coming into the playoffs was to generate a pass rush to take the pressure off of a beleaguered secondary that was ravaged by injuries late in the season. They did exactly that on the first play for the Seahawks it was a tackle for loss the next play was a pick six by Luke Kuechly throwing a Haymaker up 14-0 just 3 1/2 minutes into the game a magical start they continued through the first half. The pressure we were able to generate was a sight for sore eyes, as the outside guys hadn’t gotten a sack since the Thanksgiving showdown against Dallas.
It was great to see us force Russell Wilson into bad decisions and put them behind the chains with four sacks. The big boys responded to the challenge and did their jobs taking the pressure off the secondary, which will be key again when we face the Arizona Cardinals.
Our own “Beast Mode”
This team’s identity is the running game pounding it down the defense’s throat wearing them down opening up big splash plays. That happened Sunday with the return of our leading rusher Jonathan Stewart after a three-game absence due to injury.He set the often the tone early with a 59 yard run on the first play from scrimmage showing it was going to be a long day for Seattle trying to tackle the battering ram style of Stewart. He is the first player to rush for over 100 yards against that stingy Seattle defense in the last 27 games! I don’t like when our key players get hurt, but he looked to have the fresher legs after not being hit in three games, I think it was a blessing in disguise.
It felt like we gave Seattle a taste of their own medicine with our quartet of backs including quarterback Cam Newton. The running game is always key to our success! Today was no different Stewart rushed 19 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns. It was good to have Stewart back in the lineup, adding a dimension back to our offensive playbook.
Mr Reliable comes through again
The most reliable target of quarterback Cam Newton has been tight end Greg Olsen. Sunday was another example of the chemistry those two have developed since they both arrived in Carolina. He had six catches for 77 yards and what turned out to be the game clinching touchdown late in the first half. It wasn’t just your garden-variety touchdown either it was an acrobatic catch in between two defenders that honestly, I don’t know if any of our other guys make that catch.
Another key play in yesterday’s game that won’t get, as much notoriety as it should was a pivotal third down conversion that kept the clock moving. It was a third-down and eight a little crossing pattern that Olsen caught and took a vicious shot from safety Kam Chancellor, but still was able to get the first down. Football is a game of inches and if he did not sacrifice his body and stretch the ball we could be talking about a whole different outcome because the momentum was severely shifting in Seattle’s direction.
The trust between Newton and Olsen has continued to get stronger and stronger carrying us throughout this magical season it’s been awesome to watch. It also has forced defenses to focus more attention Olsen’s way of opening up big plays for the other guys.
Once again, I thank the Chicago Bears for giving him to us; he has become one of the best tight ends in the league and once again was a pivotal player in our playoff victory yesterday. That connection is a deadly nightmare for defenses to prepare for and virtually every time a big play results. We had Mr. reliable in Ricky Proehl now I think we have it in Greg Olsen and that’s amazing.
“You Play to Win the Game”
We played one of the most complete halves of football I’ve seen us ever play up 31-0. However, I think human nature played a part in the Seahawks second-half comeback when they outscored us 24-0. As Cam Newton put it in his press conference everybody got a little “butt tight” I totally agree you can still be relatively aggressive while chewing clock by staying at the line of scrimmage a little longer. The conservative playacting got us out of our rhythm fueling the comeback by Seattle giving them belief they could come back fortunately we made enough plays down the stretch so that didn’t happen.
In playoff football you have to keep the pedal down because as we seen crazy things can happen very quickly. The team understands they can’t let that happen again against the even more explosive Arizona Cardinals. It was good to see coach Rivera was disappointed to see our aggression diminish in the second half said it won’t happen again. If you have an opportunity to deliver the kill shot to your opponent, you must do it because your opponent have pride and don’t want to be embarrassed at their job.
I put in a little on everybody because I know Mike Shula has creative play is that can still keep us in rhythm and the defense on their toes. I know there’s a fine line because you don’t want to make stupid mistakes, allowing the opponent right back in the game. I don’t see us having a problem with that again because we understand what can happen, but it is a good problem to have because you know you’re getting off to fast starts putting your opponents behind the eight ball.
It was a topsy-turvy game that took three years off my life, but we ultimately got the job done and that’s all that matters. We have a little more bird hunting to do, I expect it to be a very exciting game that comes down to the end. Get the defibrillator ready because it’s playoff football and the Carolina Panthers anything can happen, but one thing’s for sure Bank of America Stadium is going to be rocking I can’t wait. One step closer Keep pounding Go Panthers!!