The improbabilities of the Panthers’ run to Super Bowl 50
If there’s a single person out there who predicted the Panthers to reach the Super Bowl before the season started, I want to know how to get in touch with them.
They probably have some kind of future-telling super power, and I want some advice on what my first job should be out of college.
Squeaking into the playoffs last season at 7-8-1, the Panthers were hardly even considered serious contenders to win their own division this year. The Vegas odds for them to reach the Super Bowl this season were absolutely astronomical.
Just a few weeks before the start of the regular season, second-year standout wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
In an instant, a team already criticized for its mediocrity was missing one of its key pieces. The only receiver thought to be suitable to keep the Panther offense afloat would not be suiting up at all in 2015.
But somehow, miraculously, the Panthers have stood atop the league all season.
Some have called them the most likeable team in recent memory, while others have criticized their antics all season—posing for celebratory photos before the game ends and dancing after meaningless first downs in blowouts have certainly put them under some scrutiny.
Most of the negative criticism falls on the shoulders of Cam Newton, and whether or not it’s warranted is up for you to decide.
But love them or hate them, the Carolina Panthers have dominated the league this year.
Nonetheless, Newton will more than likely win MVP this season—with subpar numbers for an MVP candidate at the QB position.
Here are a few examples of Newton’s rankings among quarterbacks this season:
QB Rating: 8th
Passing Yards: 16th
Completion Percentage: 28th
But Newton’s performance this year goes beyond his individual numbers.
It’s the absence of a supporting cast that has made Newton’s season so special.
Jumping out to a 14-0 start and dishing out passes all season to no-name receivers like Ted Ginn, Jr., Corey Brown, and Devin Funchess, it’s remarkable that Newton was able to orchestrate so much success under center.
And he never lost confidence in his receivers. Time and time again, Ginn dropped surefire touchdown passes at the most inopportune times. It was almost as if he was more likely to haul in the pass if he was not wide open.
But Newton never hesitated to throw the ball Ginn’s way again, even doing so at times on the very next play.
When the NFL trade deadline came and went on Nov. 3, the Panthers didn’t attempt to acquire another receiver. They were comfortable with their Bad News Bears-esque receiving core.
This season, the Panthers avenged losses from years past, and emphatically so.
They bested the Packers at home after losing to them by three touchdowns last season.
They topped the Eagles in primetime after getting blown out by them in 2014.
Going to Seattle and beating a Seahawks team they hadn’t beaten since 2007 gave the Panthers their first taste of respect from fans and opponents alike.
Then ousting Seattle from the playoffs in the divisional round seemed to prove the Panthers wouldn’t fold in the spotlight the way many thought they would.
And not to mention the domination of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game.
It seems that week after week the media has piled up their doubts about the Panthers.
This is a team that was referred to as “The worst remaining undefeated team” when there were six, five, four, three, and two teams still standing. And nonetheless, they stayed at something-and-0 the longest.
Then came the statistics suggesting that they were “the worst team to ever reach 14-0.”
Yet here they are, on football’s biggest stage, somehow scheduled to play on Feb. 7.
The Panthers will continue their business as usual on Sunday. Every sign has pointed to it all season.
This is their year.
Panthers 27, Broncos 20