Unacceptable is probably the more appropriate adjective when describing Carolina’s fourth quarter melt-down, which put the team at 2-8 on the season, all but ending any kind of positive swing going forward.
The Panthers led 21-10 with a little over ten minutes remaining in the game. All of the momentum was in Carolina’s corner; it simply looked like a Panthers’ victory. Although, looks can be deceiving, the Panthers eventually blowing an 11 point lead, allowing the Buccaneers to drive 80-yards for a touchdown and eventual two-point conversion with a minute left in regulation and no timeouts.
Overtime was a joke in and of itself. Carolina’s defense was gassed and simply had no answer for Buccaneers running back Doug Martin. Tampa Bay shutdown the Panthers’ defense with ease and trotted off the field with a win and feeling good with how they got it.
So where does this leave the Panthers?
The playoffs are completely out of the picture now, so the focus turns to next season. There is the NFL Draft, free agency, trades, and oh yes, possible coaching changes.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was a well deserving candidate when he took over the struggling Panthers in 2011. However, since going 6-10 during his inaugural season the pathway for Panthers’ success this season looked inevitable.
Again, looks can be deceiving.
Rivera had been getting a pass up until Sunday’s loss. No more nickel and diming as to whose fault it was. This most recent let down falls solely on Rivera’s shoulders.
Nothing good ever really comes out of firing a head coach during the season, so if Carolina does decide that this loss to the Buccaneers in week 11 sealed their head coach’s fate, then they should make the move in a different direction after the regular season ends. That would be the fair route, but this business isn’t fair.
Hey, maybe it’s time for Monday Night Football’s Jon Gruden to come back home to the NFC South and maybe this hope can get Panthers fans through the upcoming holiday season.
Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1