Defense Carries the Load as Panthers Stake Claim for Super Bowl
It was a day of giving thanks across the nation, and fans of the Carolina Panthers certainly have a lot to be thankful for. The perfect Panthers improved to an 11-0 record against the luckless Dallas Cowboys, and they did it on the back of arguably the league’s most intimidating defense.
On a day that Carolina’s power running offense could never quite finish its drives, it was the defensive unit that accounted for most of the big plays en route to a 33-14 win. The tone was set on the game’s first drive, when Kurt Coleman intercepted a Tony Romo pass, which yielded not only a monster runback for a touchdown, but a ton of smack talk from corner Josh Norman to vocal Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant.
The play would serve as a microcosm for the rest of the day, as Dallas’ valiant efforts on offense were consistently shut down by a defense that doesn’t just stop you at every turn, but lets you know about it too.
The Cowboys’ defense showed up too, but by the time the Panthers had racked up three picks – two returned for TDs – it was too late. The Dallas D held Carolina to 4 field goals and a single Cam Newton rushing TD in garbage time. Were it not for a leaping penalty on another kick, the Panthers offense may have been kept out of the endzone all afternoon.
But despite the lack of points, the Carolina offense never looked flustered. They continued the run the ball effectively between the 20s and generally never looked like losing a grip on the game.
With mere weeks remaining until the playoffs, there may not be a more complete team in the NFL than the Carolina Panthers. Its flaws at receiver have been gradually patched up through the season with improved play from Ted Ginn and rookie Devin Funchess, as well as the team MVP efforts of perennially underrated TE Greg Olsen.
The defense and running game has looked damn near impenetrable at the most crucial times this season. Cohesion all over the field at the right time has the Lombardi trophy potentially paving a road through the Carolinas in January, and it would be a surprise to absolutely no one to see Cam and company contending for the game’s top prize to end the year.