Last season, we saw how far the Carolina Panthers had come from the abysmal 2-14 team that couldn’t move the ball against a squad of determined Girl Scouts.
Last night, we saw how far they still have to go.
The New York Giants massacred the Panthers 36-7 in front of their home crowd in a game that was practically over as soon as it started.
Despite playing without three key offensive starters – wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and left tackle David Diehl – Tom Coughlin’s team scored on their first four possessions to take a 20-0 lead into halftime.
Meanwhile, Cam Newton threw three interceptions and the offense mustered only seven points after laying 35 on New Orleans just four days earlier.
Newton, who completed just 16 of 30 passes for 242 yards, finished the night with a passer rating that looked more like the results of a Pacman Jones' breathalyzer test than an NFL statistic.
Andre Brown, the former NC State star who filled in at running back for the injured Bradshaw, gashed a Panthers defense that rarely pressured the quarterback and frequently missed tackles.
To make matters worse, “Super Cam” – the self-titled superhero – was fragile and peevish, not stoic and invincible. For most of the game, the Carolina quarterback was pouting on the sideline with a towel draped over his head. Instead of talking with the coaches and trying to learn from his mistakes, he was too busy feeling sorry for himself. Cam’s sideline demeanor was so childish that Panthers veteran wide receiver Steve Smith let him have it on the sidelines.
“I don’t want to be passive and not do it because if I don’t do it, who will?” Smith told the Charlotte Observer. “The same way with my son, I can’t expect somebody else (to do that). So yeah, I lit into him because I thought it was an opportunity for him to see and understand what was going on. This is more than about playing football. It’s about becoming a man and understanding what this is.”
Smith is right. This is the National Football League. There is no time for self pity. You don’t see Eli Manning crumble into an emotional mess every time he throws an interception or makes a mistake. In fact, Eli’s uncanny ability to maintain his composure and stay positive when the chips are down is what makes him such a phenomenal quarterback.
For the Panthers, the only good thing about Week 3 is that it’s already over. And at the end of the day, there is only one question to ask about this team following such a disastrous defeat:
Does it break them or make them stronger?
We will find out next Sunday when the Panthers travel to the Georgia Dome to take on the NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons.
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