Before people start blowing up at the title, there is no denying that the 2003 Carolina Panthers were definitely the Cardiac Cats. Five overtime road games, four of them victories (including the St. Louis Rams in double OT in the divisional playoffs), and a team that was known for close games going down to the wire. Make no mistake, ten years on, this 2013 Carolina Panthers aren't that level of Cardiac Cats, but they have had some jaw-dropping, heart-stopping moments, particularly the past two weeks against Atlanta and now San Francisco.
That being said, the way Carolina has played in what is now a five-game winning streak is, in the immortal words of our own Derek Anderson, us taking our $#!+ serious. The naysayer talking heads on ESPN and the like can no longer say "Carolina hasn't played anybody," not after going into Candlestick Park and sticking it to the 49ers in a very close 10-9 game. Yet we can't sit on our laurels, not with the Pats next Monday night for another chance to show everyone the Panthers are for real, and not with the Saints still looming ahead of us for two key matchups in December.
So, what brought me to this realization, you ask? I'm coming to that, after the jump...
Yesterday in one of the post-game threads, I found myself eating a steaming helping of crow, and I'm going to own up to it. Yeah, I'm one of the ones who seriously believed Carolina would finish anywhere from 4-12 to 6-10, that Rivera and Shula would be gone, and we'd be starting a full-blown rebuild all over again and lose what we've spent three years putting together. Granted, I hope not too many people could blame me: given history the last two years, and the glaring holes we've had on both our offensive line and the secondary, I was resigned to seeing another losing season and probably spending a fair bit of that time trying to debate who might succeed Rivera as head coach.
I was wrong.
I'm finding myself daring to believe that, for the first time in five years, Carolina may just walk away with the NFC South, or at the very least walk away with a wild card and make the playoffs. Yet, during this five-game winning streak, every game I've been able to watch, I've been on the edge of my seat, all but biting my nails every time I see us on third and fourth down. I'm almost screaming at the TV screen when I see Smitty or another WR drop a pass. I'm nearly having heart attacks when I see fumbles, only for the ball to take that lucky bounce and pop right back into our hands.
In that sense, I think the 2013 Carolina Panthers are a true descendant of the 2003 Cardiac Cats. Sure as hell, they're driving me onwards towards high blood pressure and a recurrence of heart palpatations, if not worse. They're winning right now, but like James and so many others, I never know what to expect out of this team from one week to the next; that's driving me even more insane. And we still have some tough games ahead: the Pats are no slouch, despite their defensive woes; the Dolphins are trying to have that “us vs. the world” mentality; there's no telling what we're gonna be facing in Rex Ryan's Jets, since they're just as up and down as we've been; and like I said above, we still have two December matchups with the Saints to look forward to as well.
At this point, I only know one thing: I'm gonna have to exercise and walk more, so that I can withstand the efforts of our Carolina Panthers to put me into full-blown cardiac arrest.
Okay, maybe two things: sometimes, crow does taste good.