Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Carolina Panthers committed just a few too many mistakes early to overcome, despite their late game heroics. The Seattle Seahawks are a good team that skated by with a win in Charlotte. They were almost as banged up as the Panthers this week, but the talent of Russell Wilson and the established discipline of Pete Carroll proved to be more than enough to down Kyle Allen and a bevy of coaches who just finished their first full week in new positions.
That the Panthers were able to keep it close after their litany of miscues came down to a couple of factors. First, they do still have talent. Christian McCaffrey is an offense unto himself. D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Allen are capable of providing a passing game when their stars align. There will be a lot of questions to answer once a new coaching regime has been installed, but some of those answers will, heretically, be on the roster.
Second, the Seahawks exhibited the same kind of behavior that kept the Panthers from excelling in many of their lean years. They took their foot off the gas and let a lesser team hang around. If Allen had thrown one fewer awful interception then the Panthers might have won that game. Seattle bears at least as much responsibility for that as the Panthers do.
Yesterday’s effort wasn’t characterized by bad decisions at the Panthers’ team level so much as individual lapses. Whether it was errant throws, missed tackles, or whatever Donte Jackson was doing, the coaching and the team as a whole get a pass. They at least meant well.
The Panthers roster is, effectively, a few steps away from being at the level they have seen success with in the past, the level that the Seahawks are on now: talented enough to overcome errors of intent.
At this point, we’re not going to see Will Grier. Maybe that’s an ever thing because he is actually bad—a rumor the team refuses to put to bed. Maybe that’s a this year thing because they are intent on developing him “the traditional way,” which means by actively distancing him from experience. The reason is irrelevant because the result is the same for the at-home viewing experience. I say “at-home” because the pictures of the stands yesterday confirmed that nobody is paying for parking, food, and tickets to go to Bank of America stadium to watch Allen.
So if we’re not going to see Grier, we don’t want to see Allen, and the Panthers aren’t playing for anything more than draft position, what is left to watch? That’s actually pretty easy. It’s the mistakes of the better teams left on the Panthers schedule. It’s the highlights of the good talent left on their roster. There is hope in those, because they show just how narrow the difference is between an 11-3 team and a 5-9 one.
You should watch the Panthers come back and stall out at the last minute, inside the ten, in a one possession game for the millionth time this season. You should watch because walking away with a feeling of despair for the Panthers is going to leave you feeling worse than watching McCaffrey break 2,000 scrimmage yards for the first time in this franchise’s history and knowing that he is one real quarterback away from an MVP season.
Former head coach Ron Rivera said in his final press conference that he was confident he had left this team in a better place than he found it. I believe he was right. This isn’t a time to blow everything up, it’s a time to take the next step. I, for one, am excited to see where that step leads.