The Carolina Panthers lost their first game of the season in Week 15 to a team that had been struggling in recent weeks, the Atlanta Falcons. While losing won’t effect the Panthers position in the playoffs, it may take some wind out of the sails of a Carolina team that until this point seemed unstoppable heading into the off season.
According to NFL, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw for a measly 142 yards and one running touchdown, a rare performance for Carolina’s official “Superman” whom had been lifting the team over opponents for the previous 15 weeks. Fantasy football players are undoubtedly devastated that the Panthers players, who had been racking up fantasy points, couldn’t seem to get Carolina in the end zone this week as many fantasy leagues have entered their championship stage.
While many waited for Carolina’s quarterback and offense to perform another late game miracle, the Panthers defense struggled to contain one of the best wide receivers in the league, Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones. Jones seemed to have his way with Carolina defenders, racking up 178 yards and a touchdown that will most likely make it onto his career highlight reel.
Atlanta seemed to think they had the game in the bag when they stopped the Carolina offense with a little over two minutes left in the game. A series of penalties kept stopping the clock and the Panthers defense kept stopping the Falcons’ run game, forcing the Falcons to settle for a field goal to gain a seven-point lead and turn the ball back over to the Panthers. As Cam Newton completed a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Corey Brown, it seemed like the Panthers would wage another comeback. But a sack and a fumble on the second play of the drive sealed Carolina’s fate, as the Atlanta offense took over and simply kneeled the ball.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been rumored to be in contention for NFL MVP. Newton has thrown for more than 3,400 yards so far this season but it is the Carolina quarterback’s running game that has made him difficult to contain, having rushed for more than 500 yards on the season with seven touchdowns. According to UPI, however, Newton feels the MVP award is “irrelevant” in the scheme of things at the Carolina Panthers pursue a loftier goal…a Super Bowl title.
And just how did the fans cope with Carolina’s first defeat of the season? For the most part, they seemed to shake it off pretty quickly, according to Twitter, with many encouraging the Panthers to focus on the larger goal of winning the big game. Perhaps the best tweet, however, came from the Carolina Panthers themselves, giving a shout out to two other teams who expected to trounce their opponents today and lost–the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers:
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) December 27, 2015
While Carolina still clinches the NFC South title despite today’s division loss and the Panthers have already won a ticket to the playoffs, their loss and an Arizona win could put their home field advantage in jeopardy. According to ABC News, if Arizona beats Green Bay today the Cardinals would move into the home field advantage position leaving the Panthers the task of winning on the road. The thought probably is more upsetting for Panthers season ticket holders than the Carolina team, however, considering the Panthers have performed solidly on the road this year and their single loss came at home.
Will today’s loss impact Carolina’s post season? Tell us what you think!
[Cover image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]