05 December, 2011


I pondered what I would rant about after seeing the Panthers double their win total from last year.

I’m of a similar feeling from last week. Tampa Bay is a team that is spiraling downward, and without their starting quarterback, this is a team we should handle, and easily. So, while the game was impressive from an offensive standpoint primarily, it was largely expected from me. I just don’t want to get too fired up from this, a second consecutive road victory over an inferior opponent.

And, yet, I can’t help but be optimistic after what I saw yesterday. A metaphor that came to mind was one of those irresistibly hokey Japanese monster man-in-suit movies that features an embryonic creature that grows and exhibits more and more powerful and destructive features as the film proceeds to its finish. A play that personified this perfectly was the ingenious call made by Chudzinski to have Newton pass to Nanee, who in turn passed BACK to Newton, who deftly, and seemingly in slow, dramatic motion, moved the ball to scoring position. BRILLIANT! And so, another weapon in the fearsome creature known as the Rivera-led Carolina Panthers is revealed to an amazed legion of fans.

Which brings me to a larger scope.

The growth of this team is apparent. While the nature of the NFL in these days is favorable to rapid improvement, it’s STILL a process, one which takes sometimes two or more seasons, much as it had happened to the Detroit Lions. For some, like the Duckies, it can be quicker. It takes dynamic players and personnel, and we have one of the best that’s come along in quite some time. I’ve already forecast the brilliant future ahead of us in earlier, headier rants, I won’t replay them here. But like the building of a grand structure, we can see the beams and shape of the franchise to come beginning to take shape, and it’s quite encouraging. For once, there’s more than one playmaker in the receiver corps. The notion of a three- headed battering ram to defend against on our team is a delight to contemplate.

And, again, then there’s Cam.

From someone who was ridiculed by the media in an awkward interview by “Chucky” Gruden on ESPN, to a professional NFL quarterback who ABSOLUTELY GETS IT! Gets his role, gets his limitations, gets the growth process, and gets who he is without the dramatic diva antics. Case in point – a ball he held in scoring the touchdown that broke Steve Grogan’s single-season record would have been tightly retained by most NFL players. Instead, he graciously gave it to a young female fan in the front row at Raymond James Stadium. To me, that said volumes about where Cam is. He’s not thinking about NOW. He knows there’s so much more to do, so much more to accomplish than to be focused on an individual feat such as Grogan’s record. Detractors who deride Cam for his choice in sideline head adornment need to look again at this gesture before continuing to criticize him.

The season, as playoff aspirations go, is pretty much over. Mathematically, we’re not dead, but I refuse to believe that every team that’s 7-5 in our conference would lose their next four games, while we win our last four, propelling us into the playoff picture. Not happening. BUT! We could surely get started with the Duckies coming up! How good that would be, beating a team, A PRIME NEMESIS in our division, fighting for a playoff spot, and DENYING them that! It would arguably be the highlight of the season! This late in the season, most of what we’ve hoped for from these Carolina Panthers has been realized in a competitive, entertaining team that will roll over for no one. We had the predicted stinker against Tennessee, and for a half against Detroit, but we’ve fought for the entire season, which is a quantum step from where we were last season. After the disappointment of those losses has worn off, I can’t help but again be drawn to the big picture. To an offseason of serious building to a winner. If the defense can add a dynamo like Newton, we’ll be well on the way.

And like one of those iconic Japanese monsters, we can fly away (or whatever Godzilla does) at the end of the seasons to come, only to return to raze, like Tokyo, the league again and again to a fixated and ecstatic fan base…

I’ll be back soon with the final quarterly report…

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