Mac Attack 1/09/13:Panthers WR Brandon LaFell joined Mac to discuss the strong finish to the season and the announcement that Ron Rivera would return next season as Head Coach
When a bad season is over it is said to have ended mercifully, but in the case of the Panthers there is a real sense that the best is yet to come despite a 7-9 record. Cam Newton may have come of age in a single 60 minutes of play while head coach Ron Rivera gave his boss, Jerry Richardson, something to think about when it comes to his job. Happy New Year, Panthers’ fans!
For the fourth time in the last five seasons, the Panthers will close out the season against the division rival Saints, and the only thing on the line for either club is to finish on a positive note. Carolina desperately wants to surpass last year’s win total while New Orleans, disappointed that they will miss the postseason for the first time since 2008, is looking to go 8-8.
Defense has not been a trademark of the 2012 Raiders, having given up 402 points in 14 games, so it will be no surprise if they add to that inflated number this weekend. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Richard Seymour has somehow stayed on the active roster all season, despite missing the last six contests, and he will be out again when his team tries to slow down the recharged Panthers.
The Panthers are riding the kind of natural high associated with their first winning streak of the season, and one player has been instrumental in that success. Thomas Davis has come back from injuries that would have sent others into retirement, and along with his off-field charity and volunteer work, he now has the honor of being the Panthers’ nominee for a very significant award named after an NFL legend.
The way they have been playing of late the Panthers were probably looking forward to taking on the reeling Chargers. That is, until the Friday injury report put them behind the eight-ball with eight starters on it, three definitely out and possibly two more ready to join them.
In a season chocked full of rookie sensations, one is rapidly climbing the Defensive Rookie of the Year ladder. Linebacker Luke Kuechly leads the league in tackles, just like he led the nation at Boston College, and despite the Panthers losing record, he could get serious consideration for the top first year player award. Carolina is also knee deep in players on injured reserve.
What is more important: How you begin or how you finish? For head coach Ron Rivera, the Panthers have begun to turn things around, but is it too late to keep his job beyond 2012. Over the last half-dozen games, Carolina is a .500 club and deserves a commitment for at least one more year from owner Jerry Richardson.
In a season filled with injuries, the Panthers are very used to saying, “Next man up.” This week is no different as they have to replace their number one back and number two receiver as they host the 11-1 Falcons who are in a lot better shape, physically.
Not many people knew what to expect when the Chiefs hosted the Panthers on Sunday, because there was nothing to compare it to, but right from the opening drive there was a sense the home team was about to play their best game of the season. And they did, despite the horrific murder-suicide that took place a little more than 24-hours earlier.