Turns out the Carolina four game win-streak to end 2012 was indeed a springboard to success this season, which is an important factor for coach Ron Rivera sticking around.
The Panthers are coming off of a huge West Coast victory over the Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco 49ers, a 10-9 affair that was won less by Super Cam and Steve Smith than by the Panther’s defense. In fact, the offense didn’t really make plays all day, dropping passes, missing blocks, you know, the normal reasons why offenses don’t work in the NFL.
Earlier in the season, Rivera decided to simplify the playbook, giving more freedom to Cam which allowed him to break out of his force attitude, right into one of a play maker’s. That in and of itself has allowed Smith, Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen to break out of their “structured” shell and become play maker’s as well, as Cam looks to make more plays by extending them and not as much by design. At least more so than in the past.
Meanwhile the young Carolina defense, behind the tenacity of Luke Kuechly, has been simply fabulous. They are currently second in rushing and total defense, while registering for fourth in pass defense.
With a solid tenth ranked rushing attack, the Panthers are a viable contender in the NFL Playoff race and would be scary once they get there. The current 6-3 record has them in fifth place in the NFC, tied with San Francisco atop the Wildcard picture.
New England is on the docket this weekend and it’s just one more chance for the Panthers to prove they’re for real.