OK, so it wasn't that bad. And the Panthers don't hate me (but ABC still certainly does). But it was dissapointing. The game was theirs to lose and they just blew it. Big time. When are coaches (Foxy, I'm looking at you!) going to learn that you can't play not to lose. Why do we play the game? Let me tell you why. WE PLAY TO WIN THE GAME! (End Dan Hawkins.) We don't play not to lose. Now, I love John Fox. He has done wonders for this organization since he took over. However, he often plays too conservatively. There are times when you just need to go all out. And if playing for the top seed in the NFC isn't one of those times, I don't know what is. This time, Fox and Company's conservativism, I would argue, lost them the game.
But, like I said, despite my overly dramatic post-title and introduction, I don't think this is that bad. OK, OK, immediately after the game, I thought it was terrible. End-of-my-NFL-football-world terrible. But that was just in the heat of the moment. Now I have time to mull it over (i.e. read the opinions of cooler heads online) and I've decided the outcome of the game is not that bad for the following reasons.
First, it was a great game. Sure, my team lost and that always sucks but the Giants didn't blow the Panthers out. In fact, the Panthers lead most of the game. They proved the could hang with the best the NFC had to offer. The Panthers were thisclose to winning. Just a yard closer and the infamous Meadlowlands wind wouldn't have blown John Kasay's field goal attempt left. Steve Smith's holding penalty brought back a tremendous DeAngelo Williams run. The game was close and it could easily have ended with a Panthers victory.
Second, I think the Panthers needed to lose. I realize losing is generally considered a bad thing, but the Panthers have been on a winning streak for a while. They needed a wake-up call and I'm sure this one was loud and clear.
Third, the Panthers have a tendency to defeat teams in the playoffs that they lose to in the regular season (See Cowboys, Rams, and Eagles in 2003).
Fourth, we still have Steve Smith who, last time I checked (barring that one holding issue), is still the best receiver in the NFL. As long as we have him, things will always be pretty good. Plus, the Panthers have a lot of talent and good leadership.
I still have high hopes for my team in the playoffs. Of course, I would love for them to be in the Super Bowl, but I won't go so far as to predict it at this moment. Not that I'm terribly superstitious or think they don't have a chance. I'm just taking a wait-and-see approach. However, I'm fairly confident that they will make an appearance in the NFC Championship Game. Heck, maybe we'll end up with home field advantage by default because I wouldn't be surprised if the Giants bite it in the second round.
Of course, the Panthers still have to play the Saints this Sunday and win if they want a first round bye. So let's hope things get back on track in New Orleans.