By Ted Fleming
When head coach Ron Rivera was asked if the Panthers 38-0 trouncing of the New York Football Giants on Sunday was an emotional win, he responded in a matter-of-fact style, “It’s not just that, it’s knowing that we can do these things, and that we have that type of ability.” If true, that could be a scary thought for the rest of Carolina’s opponents this season.
It could be argued that this was the most dominant performance in franchise history because, from a lopsided point of view, it was. But in handing Tom Coughlin his worst defeat since taking over as head coach of the Giants, it was a near flawless game against a club many believed was headed to the postseason.
Both teams needed a win because falling to 0-3 meant that the odds of playing significant January football were bleak. Only three teams have turned the trick since 1990. A Giants loss would have stung but it would not have been crippling because they reside in a division that looks more like the NFC West in 2010 where a 7-9 record not only gets you in, you get a home game to boot.
If the Panthers came out on the short end of the score their fans would have simply put their calculators back in the kitchen drawer because the chances of playing a game, or games, in the new year would have shrunk to zero.
When you play in the NFC South with perennial penthouse dwellers like the Saints and Falcons, the only battle is to stay out of the cellar although reaching the first floor isn’t much of a consolation prize. But a funny thing happened on the way to being irrelevant once again.
The Panthers won their first game of the season, and did it convincingly. Were the Giants a mess? Sure, but they didn’t self-destruct as some would have you believe. They were outplayed in every phase of the game from start to finish and that doesn’t happen because you left your game in New Jersey.
A one point victory would not have done anything for the Panthers psyche because they have played far too many close games with a lot of them ending in heartbreak. Winning by 38 and keeping an opponent off the scoreboard, regardless of the team, changes everything.
The bye week could not have come at a better time. While some believe that a week interrupts any momentum you might have, the Panthers need it, if for nothing else, to nurse their banged up secondary back to health. Besides, wouldn’t you want an additional week to savor such a big win? There have been very few of them around these parts over the years.
Last season Carolina took out San Diego 31-7, but it happened in Week 15 when the season was pretty much lost. Both teams would finish with identical 7-9 records so the last time the Panthers had a game that had the same impact as the win over the Giants was Week 5 in 2008.
That day they blanked the Chiefs 34-0, the team’s last shutout before Sunday, and it would go a long way to a 12-4 record and a postseason berth. Unfortunately they have not been to the playoffs since, although they can use the Giants as a springboard to bigger and better things. Stay tuned.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.