The dust has now settled on Sunday’s Panther loss, and I am still rubbing my head wondering what happened. Heading into Sunday, the game against the Vikings seemed like a sure win to me. We had just beat the Redskins, Minnesota seemed like a team in disarray, we had the chance to string two together heading into our bye – all the pieces were there. Instead, on Sunday at 4:15 I found myself scratching my head, saying, “How did he miss that field goal?” When things like this happen we want to place blame.
One of the great things about sports is that people are held accountable. So many times in our real life, we see things that happen on a daily basis where people aren’t held accountable. People aren’t responsible for their own actions any more. We have become a society of unlimited chances followed up by wrist-slap punishments. Today I watched three cars blow through a light right after it turned red. Did they all get pulled over and handed tickets? No. Did they feel bad or even care? Probably not. Thousands of kids every year are pushed through schools without actually learning the criteria to pass the grade at hand. Even the guy at work in the cubicle beside you that shows up late everyday, only to spend much of his time talking loudly on the phone about the best place to hit up happy hour without actually doing any work, is never blamed for his misbehavior. That’s part of what we love about sports – we hold them accountable. Players are called out in the media, the coaches are put on the hot seat, team performance is tracked by record, and so on and so on. Could you imagine if we treated everyone in our everyday lives with the same scrutiny we did our athletes? If the three people that ran the light were forced to hold a press conference to explain their reckless driving, they probably would have waited the extra thirty seconds. How about the kid at school who doesn’t want to learn the curriculum – would he try a little harder if he was put on a ranking for all his peers to see? What about the flunky at work who doesn’t take his job seriously? If he was faced with the turnover ratio that coaches go through he would probably produce more results.
Let’s take the Panther game Sunday and talk about who we hold accountable for that jarring 24-21 loss to the Vikings on Sunday. The first name that comes to mind whenever there is a blown field goal is the kicker. And why not hold Olindo Mare responsible? How do you miss a 31-yard field goal to send the game into overtime? I couldn’t believe he missed that – 31 yards is a gimme in the NFL. All I could keep thinking, along with plenty of other Panther fans, was that John Kasay would have made that. Which brings me to the next person I’m shining the interrogation light on: Marty Hurney.
I was floored months ago when the Panthers cut John Kasay. He was an original Panther, a fan favorite, and, most of all, he was reliable. I thought it was a bad move when Marty Hurney let him go before the season, and I believe it to be more so now. I would like to point out that Kasay is second in the league in scoring this season and is 8 for 8 on field goals from 30-39 yards. Mare is tied for 17th in scoring and 5 for 7 in that range. Mare is better at kickoffs, but what difference does that make if you can’t hit the field goals in the clutch.
Some people are holding Steve Smith accountable for the holding penalty at the end of the game. It negated a huge run by Cam Newton that would have had us on the 8 yard line with a new set of downs. I wanted to point this one out because I have heard a lot of people holding Smitty responsible. I have to say that I don’t agree with this one. Smith had 7 receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and he was more the reason that we were even in that game than the reason we lost. I thought that call at the end was ticky-tack and undeserved.
The loss Sunday could have been just as easily blamed on the refereeing. I thought Ed Hochuli and his crew called a horrific game. There were several calls I couldn’t agree with, including the Smith one at the end of the game and another holding call on Jeremy Shockey earlier in the game. The Panthers were flagged 6 times for 60 yards. Now I’ll give it to you the false starts and off-sides are one thing, but these brush-up-against-a-defender-and-they-fall-down holding calls are ridiculous. This is football – there is going to be contact, and that’s why they are wearing padding. You don’t have to throw the flag every time somebody falls to the field like a Duke basketball player flopping in the lane. Never will be too soon if I see the muscley-armed ref Ed Hochuli calling another Panther game.
No matter who you blame this loss on, you are holding them accountable. They have left a sour taste in your mouth for the next two weeks until we play Tennessee to redeem ourselves – or at least until that guy runs the red light in front of you.