After a fairly uneventful preseason, the Carolina Panthers began their season on a sunny North Carolina Sunday in early September against the mighty Seattle Seahawks.
Optimistic fans dressed in black, blue and white entered into Bank of America Stadium only to leave disappointed after a tough and miserable loss to Seattle. It was the same old Carolina Panther’s football for the first game of the season: inopportune mistakes, a frustrating finish and an underwhelming performance.
As Carolina fans would soon find out, this was not the same team that had struggled mightely since the last Panther’s playoff team in 2008. No, infact this team would even be considered among the NFL’s elite by the end of the season.
After a 1-3 start, the Panther’s season would turn around in Minnesota against the Vikings where Carolina would dominate on both sides of the ball and win by a final score of 35-10. The Panthers would go on to win their next four games against mediocre opponents before setting up one of their biggest games of the year against the San Francisco 49ers.
Against the gold and red of California, the Panthers would display their top-ranked defense against a high powered 49ers offense, hold on to a slim lead and solidify their excellence as a ballclub with a stellar 10-9 victory over San Francisco in Candlestick Park.
The next week, the powerful Patriots would come to Charlotte to play against the surging Panthers on “Monday Night Football” televised on ESPN. Despite the nation’s doubts about Carolina in a playoff atmosphere, the Panthers excelled once again in “crunch time” and were able to beat Tom Brady and New England to even further solidify their belonging in the NFL’s “elite” category.
From then on, the Panthers were able to grind out two victories against Miami and Tampa Bay to set up a matchup against the Saints in New Orleans. Unfortunately, the Panthers were unable to convert on crucial red zone opportunities and fell by a score of 31-13.
Don’t worry, after a 10-point win over the New York Jets the week after, the Panthers would have an opportunity to get revenge in Charlotte against those same Saints.
In a game that was seemingly in New Orlean’s hands, Carolina used a clutch game-winning drive to defeat the Saints, and gain first place in the division. The Panthers were able yet again to pull off some magic.
The Panthers were able to complete their remarkable regular season with a 21-20 victory in Atlanta against the Falcons. Carolina finished with an overall record of 12-4, which in return gave them a home field advantage as a two seed in the NFC playoffs.
After a week off, the Panthers would make their first postseason appearance against the same 49ers that they defeated earlier in the season.
A sea of black, white and blue, chants of “LUUUKE,” banners and other Panthers paraphernalia made up the scene in Charlotte for the most important home game in six years. In a game that looked promising at one point for the Panthers, finished with the wrong team ahead. Carolina’s magical season had finally come to an end.
The Panthers turned a season with limited expectations into one of the greatest in the franchise’s history. With an offseason to improve, who knows -- maybe the Panthers can exceed expectations next season and bring a Lombardi Trophy to bring back to Charlotte in 2015.