Panthers’ undefeated season is over… but that doesn’t undermine a thing
The team’s first loss came against the same Falcons team they had just defeated 38-0 a few weeks prior.
But again, so what.
In the grand scheme of things, it may even be best to get a loss out of the way now when you can recover. A loss in the postseason means no tomorrow; no next week; no fixing the issue. A loss in the postseason means you go home. But taking a 20-13 loss now not only humbles a team that many were seeing as getting beside themselves and playing cocky, but gives Carolina a new sense of motivation to finish the season strong.
The reality is, losing to Atlanta doesn’t change anything. The Panthers are still the best team in the NFL record wise at 14-1. They still control their fate for home field throughout the postseason. Their shot at a Super Bowl is far from over. And more importantly, they still have arguably the best player right now in the NFL under center- Cam Newton.
According to ESPN staff writer David Newton, the scene of Newton after the game slumping in front of his locker with a towel over his head was a textbook depiction of exactly how most Carolina players were feeling after seeing their perfect season wiped away. Once getting his thoughts and demeanor together, Newton took to the podium and impeccably summed up what the rest of the world had just witnessed (and were probably thinking), “We got our ass kicked today, and to a large degree we deserved it.”
No excuses, just owning it. Acknowledging the fact that for the fifth time this season, the Panthers have put themselves in a vulnerable position late in games, but only this time, they weren’t able to pull themselves out. That’s the kind of player the five-year veteran has evolved into. That’s the reason Newton, now more than ever, should be the league MVP.
Over a year ago, on December 9, 2014, Newton was involved in a car accident. Thankfully, he suffered minor injuries, but Newton had been ridiculed about his ability to be a leader in the weeks leading up to that incident. Since that crash, the quarterback has led his team to 19 straight regular season victories up until Sunday’s loss.
“On the day of the accident, of course we were all worried about his health,” says Vincent Pride, Panthers QCC (quality control coach). “Once we realized that eventually he would be ok, we were happy. Cam had gone through a lot of ridicule through the media before the accident about his ability to be a leader. Well, I think he’s answered that question hands down. Cam realized that at any given moment you could lose not just the ability to play football, but possibly lose your life. It was an eye-opening experience that has elevated not just his play on the field, but his ability to enjoy life everyday and have fun doing it.”
Newton has most certainly seemed to enjoy the fruits of winning this year, but not without controversy. He was criticized for his “dabbing” after touchdowns and first downs. He was scolded in a letter by a mother in Tennessee who didn’t see him as role model for daughter, despite the many charities Newton supports and activities that he hosts kids and less fortunate families in the Charlotte area. The team as a whole was regarded as the “worst” undefeated team, as if it’s an easy feat to go undefeated in the NFL.