The Carolina Panthers are 7-0.
Say what you will about the offense, say what you will about the pass rush, but this team has managed to eek out 7 straight wins in 2015, and is the only NFC team to do so.
The final score doesn't reflect it, but the defense did it's part in this game. Following two turnovers in the first quarter, the Panthers managed to keep the Colts in the game, as they rallied back to force OT with the top ranked NFC team. The Panthers defense only sacked Luck twice, but managed three INT's and two forced fumbles, along with a heck of a lot of plays from Josh Norman to keep the Colts at bay.
Once the Colts forced OT, the team needed a stop to keep the Panthers offense in the game. And that;'s exactly what they got from their defense, who forced a field goal on the opening drive of OT, and forced an interception after the offense rallied back and got a field goal to keep the game going. The Cardiac Cats are officially back.
- Luke Kuechly kept this team in the game after Roman Harper tipped a ball in the air in OT. Say what you will about Harper, but he made a few great plays in this game. Is he replaceable? Absolutely, but right now he's the best we have. The Panthers safeties as a whole did a much better job from last week. Kurt Coleman had an INT, and you might as well credit Harper with an INT after that play in OT to keep the game alive. The secondary is proving to be better than a lot of outlets (myself included) gave them credit for.
- Greg Olsen's 6 receptions for 79 yards and a TD actually isn't that impressive for him on paper considering his resume as a Panther, but he put the offense ahead to start off the 3rd quarter. Slow and steady will win the race with this team, and it's clear that Olsen will eventually make the plays if you keep throwing at him.
- Jared Allen has two sacks in the last two games, and pressured Luck many more times in this game. I am anxious to see him take the field with Charles Johnson, one of the GOAT Panthers rushers.
- Graham Gano made the two biggest kicks of his Panthers career following a missed extra point. Golden Toe Gano, we thank you.
- Ted Ginn could have easily put this game away had he not dropped a deep pass in OT. That wasn't just catch-able, that was a gimme. We know Ginn isn't a true NFL WR1, but on a pass like that you have to make a play. It's simply too easy for other WRs to make that, and he literally and figuratively dropped the ball. Thank god the team rallied in spite of that.
- The offensive line struggled, which is understandable with injuries. But in the long term, it is clear this team lives and dies by it's rushing attack. The team struggled to consistently run the ball tonight, and a lot of that has to do with the passing attack.
- Two lost fumbles and an INT. This team has found a way to win in spite of turnovers, but the team is turning the ball over way too much to consistently be successful once the playoffs come around.
Hard to complain too much about 7-0, as this team continues to buck the curve of "you need an elite passing offense" to be successful. The Panthers meet the Packers next week, a team I considered the buzzsaw that this team would inevitably meet, and yet they faltered in front of another great defense. It's a winnable game, but it won't be easy. Last week aside, the Packers have been a great team who has only lost one game. The Panthers tacked on as many wins as possibly before meeting them, but this could be a great gauge for a potential playoff matchup.
The Cardiac Cats Keep Pounding, and you should too after a stressful game like this one.