Pro Football Teams


Carolina Panthers:

These Cinderellas are trying to get back to the ball

The Carolina Panthers broke the mold of NFL expansion teams that take an incredible amount of time to start winning. In the ‘96 season, which was their second year of existence, the Panthers finished with a 12-4 record, won the NFC West, and not only earned a playoff berth but first round bye also. In their first playoff game in franchise history they matched up against “America’s Team” the Dallas Cowboys. The Panthers dismissed the defending champions with a score of 26-17 and ended the Dallas Cowboy dynasty of the ‘90s.

Other than that magical ’96 season where the team played at the highest level the team hadn’t enjoyed any other success. From ’97-’02 the team only finished at 8-8 once and every other year they were worse until the ’03 season came around. Second year coach John Fox landed running back Stephen Davis in free agency and he was ready to take the league by storm. The ’03 Panthers took a great deal after the ’00 Baltimore Ravens. The Panthers played smash mouth football in every sense of the word. They ran the ball 35 times a game and the defense would bust guys in the mouth. Taking the game, back to its roots, the Panthers dominated opponents and out huslted oppenents time after time in exciting, close games, making a Panthers ticket to Bank of America Stadium one of the hottest bills around. Their defensive line was heads and shoulders above the rest of the league and could control the game with their play. The team finished the season with an 11-5 record and won their second NFC West title. In the first round they came up against none other than the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys had just returned themselves to respectability and were obviously out matched by Carolina. The Panthers just showed the Cowboys they needed a lot more work done on their team and demolished them 29-10. In the second round they faced off against the Rams in a barnburner. The game went into double overtime and ended on a 69 yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Steve Smith. In the conference championship the Panthers defense made the Eagles look silly. Philadelphia only managed to put three points on the board in a 14-3 loss. The play that epitomized the entire Panthers type of play came on a DeShaun Foster goal line touchdown run. Foster shed 5 Eagle defenders and was almost down once before he let out another burst and made his way into the endzone. The Super Bowl was one to be remembered. Everyone picked the New England Patriots to dominate the game and counted out the Panthers due to their lack of offense. The Panthers showed they could put points on the board and move the ball during the game. Quarterback Jake Delhomme passed for 323 yards and three touchdowns in a losing effort. The game ended when Patriot kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked a 41 yard field goal as time expired to put the Patriots up 32-29. The game became an instant classic and will be talked about for generations.

In the off-season the Panthers had to make sure they made improvements to their team because as a great man once said, “If you ain’t gettin’ better then your getting’ worse.” The team brought in guard Adam Meadows, defensive end Jessie Armstead, and linebacker Brandon Short. Meadows is an upgrade from Jeno James and Armstead and Short will give depth to an already strong Panthers’ front seven.
In the draft the Panthers filled the holes that needed filling. They filled the need at cornerback by drafting Ohio State standout athlete Chris Gamble and added depth at wide receiver by drafting Southern California wide out Keary Colbert.

The Panthers offense wasn’t quite as bad as most people think. They wouldn’t put up the same numbers the Rams of yesteryear would put up but they did enough to win games. The team finished 16th in total offense but had the 7th best rushing offense. The offense is lead by Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis and quarterback Jake Delhomme.

The defense is what won the Panthers games in ’03. They held opponents to 14 points or under on seven separate occasions last season, including only giving up a field goal to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. They’re lead by arguably the best defensive lineman in the NFL, defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. Teams would game plan around him and it would open it up for other defenders to get in on tackles.

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