For the first time all season, Panthers players and coaches are left contemplating defeat.
“There’s no magic words that need to be said. You’re not going hear me wave a wand or do anything like that,” Newton said. “We got our ass kicked today, and to a lot of degree, we deserved it, especially the type of way we played. Offensively, defensively and special teams. And I’m talking with the mirror in front of my face. There were some plays that we left out there, we knew it. Yet, we know what we’re capable of … we’ve put ourselves in this situation where we can use this as fuel to the fire.”
Falling to 14-1 is far from a crisis for an extremely talented team, but Sunday’s loss changes the complexion of next week’s regular-season finale for the Panthers. With Arizona’s 38-8 waxing of the Packers, the NFC’s top playoff seed remains up for grabs heading into Week 17. Carolina can hardly afford to slip up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We have too much riding on this season for us just to sit back and say, ‘Well, this week wasn’t as good as we wanted.’ Bull crap,” Newton said. “For us, we had a great couple days of practice … knowing what we have moving forward we just got to put our energy toward preparing for Tampa.”
Said Newton: “We got to play better. That’s unacceptable, especially at this time of the year.”
And even more so come January, when the Panthers will be tasked with extending their magical campaign against a postseason matrix littered with teams angling to take out Newton and his band of upstarts. The road only grows gnarlier from here on out.