Whoever said all good things must come to an end had to be talking about the Carolina Panthers.
The eight game winning streak that lasted almost two months had made Carolina look nearly invincible. Almost being the keyword there of course. On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints exposed one of the Panthers biggest weaknesses, the secondary. Nicknamed the “Legion of Whom” given the inexperience of the group, the unit looked as one local Charlotte beat writer said, the “Legion of Doom,” and he didn’t mean it in a good way.
Granted, the Cats were playing Drew Brees, one of the best quarterbacks in the league if not the game, but this wasn’t the first time the secondary had had issues.
The warning signs started in the Miami game when Carolina’s defensive backs couldn’t seem to contain Mike Wallace, who had 5 receptions for 127 yards including a 53-yard touchdown. That’s not even including the other times Wallace was able to get behind the defense and was overthrown by Ryan Tannehill. No offense to Tannehill, but he’s no Drew Brees.
Ron Rivera was quick to point out that the defensive breakdowns in the Saints game went beyond a poor secondary. This was the first game in a long time the Panthers couldn’t seem to get any kind of pressure on the quarterback. The Carolina defense only recorded two sacks on Brees and struggled to get him out of his rhythm. The Saints’ offense used quick pass plays and even some six and seven man protections that made it very difficult for any Panther to even get in the same zip code as Brees.
The good news, or depending how you look at it, bad news, is that Carolina will see New Orleans again next week. It will give the team a quick turnaround to get the bad taste out of their mouth but the most important item this week to use coach speak is to focus on the task at hand which is the game Sunday against the New York Jets.
The Jets are coming off a win over the Raiders that ended a three game losing streak and are still in the hunt for a wild card spot. This game will prove if the Panthers can shake the New Orleans hangover and beat a team that on paper they are better than.
If they lose, their spot in the playoff hunt could be in jeopardy. The team currently stands at 9-4 along with the 49ers of San Francisco. The Cats hold the tiebreaker in that scenario but another loss puts them further down the list with the surging Arizona Cardinals, who are 8-5 and hold the tiebreaker over the Panthers.
Rivera stood before his team after the 31-13 drubbing at the hands of the Saints on Sunday night and flat out told his team they had been humbled. Hopefully Panther fans will see a different team when New Orleans returns to Charlotte next weekend.
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