No team has had more fun this season than the Panthers.
But after a 20-13 loss to the Falcons that spoiled their dreams of an undefeated season, it was their turn to hurt.
“It didn’t tickle,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton told reporters afterward, reflecting on the only blemish on their 14-1 record.
“We got our ass kicked today,” he continued. “Offense, defense, special teams. And I’m talking with the mirror in front of my face.”
The Panthers can still clinch home field advantage through the NFC playoffs with a win at home against the Buccaneers next week, and they still have the league’s best record.
But there were clearly distinct problems that became evident as the day progressed.
Newton’s 4.7 yards per pass attempt was a season low, as he managed just 142 yards through the air. He ran for 46 yards, but fumbled once, and was sacked twice and pressured consistently by the Falcons.
But they clearly missed running back Jonathan Stewart, and didn’t have the same kind of vertical threat in their passing game after Ted Ginn came up limping with a knee injury.
Ginn was able to return to the game, and Stewart is expected back before the playoffs. But the Panthers have real issues to address before the postseason starts, and plenty of work to do when they get back to Charlotte.