Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tampa game among most significant ever for Panthers

Hi, everyone. I'm glad to be home in Charlotte. I got stranded in Wisconsin and then O'Hare airport in Chicago following the Green Bay game, and didn't actually get back into my own house until the wee hours Tuesday morning.

Anyway, I'm writing a column for Wednesday's Charlotte Observer on how the Tampa Bay-Carolina game stacks up in terms of significance for all home games in Carolina's 14-year football history (there have been slightly more than 100 of them altogether).

Now take into account, this list is only about HOME games (so no Super Bowl, no road playoff games). And it's not a list of Carolina's best wins ever. It's a list of their most SIGNIFICANT home games ever -- the ones that meant the most, either at the time or in retrospect.

Here's my top five chart, which will run in Wednesday's paper, along with a few honorable mentions, which won't:

Here's my take on the 5 most significant home games in the Carolina Panthers’ 14-season history:

1) DALLAS -- Jan.4, 1997. It’s never as good as the first time. Carolina’s first-ever home playoff game was a 26-17 win over a Dallas team that included the Fab Four of Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman.
2) DALLAS – Jan.3, 2004. The Panthers began their run to the Super Bowl with a 29-10 whipping of the Cowboys; Steve Smith set the tone with a 70-yard reception on Panthers’ first pass.
3) TAMPA BAY, Dec.8, 2008 – Coming this Monday night, a December home game under the lights, with two 9-3 teams and bitter rivals fighting for NFC South superiority. Extremely significant no matter how it turns out.
4) PITTSBURGH -- Dec.22, 1996. Chad Cota’s end-zone interception -- which was hard to see from any vantage point -- clinched 12-4 season and Carolina’s first division title.
5) NEW ORLEANS -- Jan.2, 2005. Panthers would have made 2004playoffs with win after 1-7 start to season, but stunk it up in a 21-18 loss to the Saints.

My 2 honorable mentions: Carolina's first-ever home win in Oct.1995, when Sam Mills returned Bubby Brister's shovel pass for a TD in a 26-15 victory at Clemson and Carolina's 23-7 win over San Francisco in 1996, which came during the 49ers' heyday and showed everyone the Panthers would be a force that season.

Now remember, this list can include both wins and losses (see No.5). I'm sure I'm forgetting some other big home games -- tell me if you remember any or disagree with anything on this list.


Karl said...

If we lose Monday night, we can kiss winning the NFC South goodbye.

Our last three games are against teams that don't currently have losing records: 7-5 Denver at home, 11-1 Giants on the road, and 6-6 Saints on the road. We may have a good chance against the Broncos and the Saints, but the Giants away will be tough. So a loss to the Bucs means we'll likely be 2-2 in the last 4 games with a finishing record of 11-5.

The Bucs' last three games, on the other hand, are against easier teams: 8-4 Atlanta on the road, but then 4-8 San Diego and 3-9 Oakland at home. So if the Bucs beat us here, they'll likely go 3-1 or maybe even 4-0 in their last 4 games, with a finishing record of 12-4 or 13-3. And even if they drop 2 of the last 3 and finish 11-5, they'd still own the tiebreaker over us through having beaten us twice. So a loss to the Bucs means our chances of winning the division pretty much depend on them imploding in the last three weeks. That's not very likely.

Losing to the Bucs, in other words, means the best we can expect is yet another wild card spot, and no playoff games at home. It's true that this formula has worked well for us in the past, but it's unfortunate that we haven't had more playoff games here in Charlotte. With a team as good as we have, we should win the NFC South. I just hope our inconsistency doesn't cost us the best opportunity we've had in a long time to do well.

Aaron said...

Karl could not have said it any better. Go Panthers! Let's kick some Buc Butt on Prime time.

iEatBucs said...

C'mon Panthers! We believe in you! Let's finish strong and get that 1st round bye!!!!

Godwin said...

carolina vs jacksonville first game of super bowl season, down 17 in the first half then jake comes in and leads us to 24-23 victory. the emergence of jake and the start of a magical year.