Carolina Panthers: Snap Snafu Dooms Dirtybirds

The regular season finale was a fraught with all types of playoff implications for the Carolina Panthers. The win last week assured them of a postseason berth, but a win against the despised Atlanta Falcons would give them no worse than the second seed in the NFC side of the playoffs. And with a bit of good fortune, a shot at the number one overall seed. Well fortune struck for Carolina, but it was not in the form of the Seahawks losing to an inferior opponent.

The last three out of four games, Carolina has struggled on offense. They have averaged 248 yards and 17 points in those three games. While giving up an average of 21.3 points and 348.3 yards in those same three out of four games. This can’t happen in the playoffs. But I digress. The Falcons came to play today and Tony Gonzalez provided them all the motivation they needed to win this one. The Falcons defense looked great for most of the game. And when Carolina did finally break off a big play, DeAngelo Williams again fumbled the ball inside the ten yard line. He was saved by Melvin White who intercepted the next Matt Ryan pass at the Falcons eight yard line and returned it for a score. That got the momentum back in the favor of Carolina.

Cam Newton and the Panthers offense struggled for most of the day. Newton did have his best rushing performance of the year in this one, averaging 12 yards per carry. Cam’s rushing was vital for the limited offensive success we did have. Passing was not sharp today. Cam sailed several passes high to open receivers. And when he did get it to them there were a few drops. Tolbert only touched the ball seven times for some strange reason. He should be pounding the rock. The offense is still a work in progress for this Carolina team

Switching sides of the ball, the Panthers defense had a spectacular day. Nine sacks as a team and Greg Hardy lived up to his nickname, the Kraken, with a legendary game compiling four sacks on the day.  Matt Ryan was hit, knocked down and just abused by the Panthers defensive front throughout most of the day. The dropsies seemed to be contagious as Roddy White from Atlanta had his fair share of drops, five in total I believe. Luke Kuechly had a very pedestrian kind of day, only ten tackles. Despite how well our defense played, it came down to late in the fourth quarter before this one would be decided.

With about a minute left in the game, Ron RIvera decides to punt the ball to Atlanta and trust his defense to hold the one point lead the Panthers precariously established. In the words of Yogi Berra, it was like deja vu all over again. My mind thought back to the game in Atlanta when Hiroki Nakamura was burned by Roddy White and Matt Ryan to win the game in Atlanta last season. And with the way Atlanta was matriculating down the field it looked as though the Falcons may steal the game late from the Panthers. But lady luck smiled on the Panthers today.

On a routine shotgun play Matt Ryan was barking out signals to the offense. The Falcons were in hurry up mode because they had used all their timeouts during the Panthers last offensive series. As Ryan is barking out the snap count, he notices two Panthers defenders creeping up toward the line in anticipation of the snap. Ryan decides to change the play right in the middle of his cadence and the center snaps the ball past Ryan and the Falcons are taken completely out of field goal range. I am sure all Panthers fans along with myself breathed a tremendous sigh of relief. What a hard fought game. Just another in a long season of hard fought games.

Make sure you catch @Cat_Chronicles live web show every Wednesday night at 930 on Google+. Or watch on YouTube after the show airs. It has been a great season and if the playoffs are anything like the regular season, hold on to your hats, it is gonna be a wild ride.