The Panthers got one last kick in the teeth Sunday when Philadelphia beat the New York Giants. That meant that -- IF Carolina had managed to beat Arizona Saturday night instead of getting destroyed, 33-13 -- the Panthers would have hosted the NFC Championship next Sunday for the first time ever. Here's my follow-up column in Monday's paper about that fact and others.
So it's Philadelphia at Arizona for the NFC title Sunday at 3 p.m., and who saw that one coming? Both teams had a mere nine wins in the regular season. Carolina had 12.
But what matters is the playoffs, and now it's guaranteed that the NFC will send a team with no more than nine wins in a full, regular season to the Super Bowl since the Los Angeles Rams went in 1979 (they lost to the Steelers).
As various pundits are noting, these playoffs have been for the Birds -- the Ravens, Eagles and Cardinals all were underdogs who won on the road this weekend. Only the Steelers survived at home, vs. San Diego.
I don't normally quote poets in this blog, but this one by John Greenleaf Whittier seems appropriate for the Panthers' sudden demise:
"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been.'"