That's really all you can say in this situation. In a weird way it helps. Say it with me: 'Oh Panthers...'. Despite having the game by the throat, despite the pass rushing looking as good as it's ever going to look, despite Cam Newton throwing for over 300 yards, and despite their only touchdown coming off a fluke it all went wrong, yet again. Now the Panthers are 1-6 on the season.
Let's not have delusions of grandeur here-- the Bears were playing atrociously, then decided they learned how to play. When they remembered how the game of football works, the Panthers had no chance. Did they get lucky on the Steve Smith slip? Absolutely. Did the Panthers get lucky when Louis Murphy happened to be Johnny on the spot? Also yes.
Personally, I've streaked ahead to 'acceptance' in the Kubler-Ross model, and enjoying whats left. At least the football is entertaining. In 2010 games couldn't end quickly enough, because it was like watching, well, like watching the Jacksonville Jaguars. This Panthers' team isn't terrible, they're just.. quirky.
Following the game Twitter went abuzz the way it always does post-game, and Ron Rivera was the primary target-- as if he could have put stickum on Steve Smith's shoes, or made a huge difference in the outcome of the game. Sometimes [expletive] happens, and there's no real answer. Instead of forcing one to fit a non-existent story line, let's accept it for what it was. The Panthers played really well, the Bears played really poorly, yet a couple of mistakes made all the difference.
The much maligned decision will be Ron Rivera electing to have Cam Newton throw a Hail Mary rather than have Justin Medlock attempt a 51-yard field goal. It's the perfect example of the armchair head coach. You have a tenuous lead heading into the half, and the potential that if it's windy and Medlock is short that the Bears will stick Devin Hester back there to attempt a return. Furthermore, you have an inexperienced kicker, who has a self-professed history of confidence issues, trying to make a 51-yarder in one of the NFL's windiest stadiums.
Was it an easy call not to kick? No... but let's not pretend it was the obvious decision
Greg Hardy-- Extremely optimistic
There have been two consistencies with Greg Hardy: That he's notoriously inconsistent, and that he can be an elite player if he manages to put in all together. On Sunday against the Bears he put it all together, and looked utterly unstoppable. With three sacks on the day, and consistent pressure, the only thing that stopped him was when the Bears went into 'full protect' mode, and put a spate of blockers in the backfield.
Justin Medlock-- Extremely optimistic
It's easy to write it off as simply 'doing what a kicker is supposed to do', but the reality is that Justin Medlock was everything the Panthers needed him to be, and on a blustery day was the reason the Panthers kept this game close at all.
Luke Kuechly-- Extremely optimistic
Uncle Luke keeps thriving in the middle. Another week, another ten tackles. If nothing else goes right this year, rest assured knowing that the 1st round pick was the right decision.
Charles Johnson-- Extremely Optimistic
Easy to overlook him with Greg Hardy playing so well, but CJ finished with two sacks and two forced fumbles. Flipping the field was supposed to be the Bears' forte, and yet Johnson ensured the Panthers were in good stead on defense.
Third down offense-- Extremely optimistic
As disappointing as the loss was, Chud called a really good game. The Panthers converted on 52% of their third downs, and even though they struggled to get into the end zone, the offense did what they needed to on third down. Given that for much of the season they've been sub 35 percent, this was a huge jump
Bears' final drive-- Extremely pessimistic
It was unfair to a young CB who had played so well that the defense elected to leave him on an island in a soft zone for almost all of the final plays. All it took was the Bears to run continual slants against Josh Norman, and the fifth round rookie couldn't do anything.
Brad Nortman-- Extremely pessimistic
Okay, so it's a little too easy to pick on the punter. However a six yard punt.... SIX.
That is all.
Bring on the squibs-- Somewhat pessimistic
Hard to hate on the idea too much. Let's face it, the decision to kick away from Devin Hester worked for much of the game. However, the problem was that Carolina fell in love with it so much that they kept doing it, even as the game continued to get closer. The risk was there, but it was worth giving the Bears the ball such a short field for the game winning field goal.
Cam Newton-- Somewhat pessimistic
I'm not slamming Cam for the loss, and each of his turnovers could have been blamed on the receiver. However, the inability to lead an endzone drive really helped kill the Panthers. His accuracy was shaky again, and looks out of his element in 2012.
Enjoy this for what it is, hot mess and all. I know it's disappointing, we know it should have been better-- but it's not.
Rookies are progressing, games are close, and nobody died. That might as well be a successful day