That is the question I have asked myself daily since this most recent Sunday disappointment. We had such high expectations for our team this season. This was supposed to be the year of the Panther. So where did it all go wrong? Let’s go back to September 30, 2012 and I’ll tell you. That day will live in infamy when remembering the 2012 season.
The Panthers arrived in Atlanta licking their wounds from a Thursday night throttling at the hands of the New York Giants. Carolina was completely dominated by New York. The Panthers needed a really good showing versus the Falcons. Boy did Carolina show up for this one.
Atlanta could do nothing to stop the Panthers offensive machine. The game plan devised by the coaches was flawlessly executed. Defensively the Panthers were able to pressure Matt Ryan throughout the entire game. If they weren’t sacking him, he was hurried or knocked down. There was one area that the Panthers struggled all game, covering Roddy White. He was able to get open all day. Even when we attempted to double cover him he was able to get open. This would prove to be the demise of the team’s efforts against the Falcons late in the day.
These 2 teams traded shots all game long. They went tit for tat, score for score through the afternoon. And fittingly it came down to one possession late in the 4th quarter for the Panthers. The score at the time was 28-27 in favor of the Panthers. Then things get interesting.
To this point in the 2012 season the Panthers were a team searching for an identity. This team has real talent, there is no denying that, but so far this season Carolina didn’t know what kind of football team they were.This moment could have deified Ron Rivera in Charlotte.
It’s 4th and 1 (really more like 2 feet) around midfield. The Panthers have bullied the Falcons defense throughout the day and Cam had even picked up the 1st down on the previous play. He had the ball knocked out of his hand on a good play by John Abraham, that was recovered by Tolbert ,but was now short of the 1st down. Truthfully we were fortunate to have fallen on the loose ball. This is where Rivera should have put his faith and shown confidence in Cam and the rest of the offense. They should have been left on the field and been told to go out there and win the game. With the week of bad press Cam had received for his “moping and sulking” after the Giants game, I’m sure he could have used the show of faith by Rivera. By going for it on 4th down, Rivera, would have put the rest of the league on notice. The Panthers are here and we are going to be contenders. That moment would have defined this team. Had Rivera gone for it, I believe it would have turned our season around. We would be eyeing the playoffs instead of potentially another #1 draft pick. Instead of setting the tone for his team and this season by going for it, Rivera elects to punt.Now Rivera has gone from playing to win the game to trying not to lose the game. Very big difference!
We all know what happens after that. Matt Ryan abuses our secondary by finding Roddy White for a long gainer just like he had done the entire game.They matriculate down the field in a few quick plays and kick the game winning field goal with 5 seconds left. Game lost, team lost, and season lost. All because of one gutless decision by the head coach.
Cam is the best player on your team and probably the best player in the NFL. So why would you take the ball out of his hands? The defensive backs could not cover Roddy White with a blanket at any point during the game, so why are you going to trust them at this crucial moment so late in the game? I will never understand the reasoning for his decision, but it is THAT very decision that cost us the season.
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