Panthers need to put 2015 behind them, once and for all

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Plenty of potential problems have been identified to explain the struggles of the Carolina Panthers. Here’s one that can’t be overlooked: The fumes of the 2015 season continue to hover over the franchise, five games in to 2016.

Tight end Greg Olsen hinted at what could happen in July, when he talked about the team going 1-4. When coach Ron Rivera talked repeatedly about his concerns that the Panthers would play the Broncos on the opening night of the season, part of the problem was that it would be impossible to move on from 2015 when the next year would begin with a much-hyped rematch of Super Bowl.

They could have exorcised the demons of 2015 with a win at Denver, which nearly happened. And while they rebounded with a convincing win over the 49ers, three straight losses have made the Panthers look nothing like the team that ran roughshod over the rest of the league last year.

Before they can get things on track in 2016, the Panthers need to completely forget about 2015. Things came easily for the offense and, in turn, for the defense. Wins piled up during a season that felt special from the get-go. Ultimately, however, the team of destiny was destined to fail.

The failure from 2015 echoes into 2016. Until they quit thinking about what they did last year and start focusing solely on what they need to do this year, the struggles will continue.

The next chance comes in New Orleans with the return of quarterback Cam Newton.