Could Winning Out be Bad for the Panthers?

It has been an incredible six weeks for Panther fans. We have been on an emotional high--one I don’t want to end. For the past five years, Panther fans have been wanting something to cheer for, something to get behind, and now we have it. Can it last though? Is this a “magical”season? Will the ride last beyond this season? After what seems like an eternity of cellar dwelling, Carolina is in the spotlight. I want to ride this dragon as long as possible.

I secretly think a loss would be good for the Panthers.  THERE I SAID IT.  I know it sounds preposterous, unnatural even.  I can’t deny it  though.  The stench of the last 12-4 Panther team that crumbled to the Arizona Cardinals in 2008-9 still lingers, making me weary of a Panther team that rides too high into the playoffs.

As division champs, the Carolina Panthers cruised into the 2008 playoffs with a 12-4 record as a #2 seed. Coming off a first round bye, the Panthers welcomed the #4 seed Arizona Cardinals to Charlotte in what many thought (myself included) a game Carolina should win. Carolina had beaten Arizona earlier in week eight.  Despite Kurt Warner’s 381 passing yard, 2 TDs  performance, despite Larry Fitzgerald’s 116 yards receiving, Carolina still squeaked out a 27-24 win. Carolina countered Arizona’s potent performance with standout performances from Jake Delhomme (248 yds, 2 TDs) and Steve Smith ( 5 rec,117 yds, 2 TDs). DeAngelo Williams also joined in the offensive party, rushing for 108 yards and TD. It was a good win for Carolina.  It was a tough win though that could have easily gone the other way. Both Cardinals turnovers came in the Panthers red zone, and in the end it took a 4th quarter 50 yd FG from John Kasay to put the Cardinals away .  

Panther fans knew that a playoff rematch against Arizona would not be a cakewalk, but home field advantage, a first round bye, and their hard earned regular season victory over the Cardinals created a tenuous confidence in Carolina. If anything, Panther fans looked forward to two offensive juggernauts trading blows.  Instead of trading bows, hero of the regular season victory, Jake Delhomme just blew. When game day arrived literally fell apart.  Delhomme threw five interceptions and the wheels fell off the bus. I remember watching the game and just feeling like he had been bribed to throw the game. He made terrible decisions. He played just about as poorly as a quarterback could have. Which is why I ask again, would a late season loss to a non contending team be so bad for this Panthers team?

If I thought this team could run the table then so be it. However this is a young team,  and while they seem very focused right now,t my fear is they may start to believe the headlines and lose some of the focus. A late season loss may be just what they need to get back the focus they need to make a run to the Super Bowl.

Let me know.  Should we run the table or would a loss galvanize this team as they entered the playoffs.