Doesn't it make you kind of frustrated? Doesn't it annoy you a little that the Carolina Panthers have chosen this time of year to play their best football?
The Panthers continue to play their best when it matters the least, whipping San Diego, 31-7, on the road Sunday.
That win, combined with the 30-20 stomping that the Panthers gave an Atlanta team that is now 12-2 last week in Charlotte, means the Panthers are 5-9 and have won consecutive games for the first time all season. (I covered the Atlanta game in person but watched the San Diego one from my couch -- check The Observer for great coverage from our three writers who attended the game).
Normally, December would be a great month to be playing great. But the Panthers started so horribly that by the time they lost a road game to woeful Kansas City on Dec. 2, the rest of the season became largely irrelevant.
Well, it is relevant in one big way, in that some jobs are going to be saved around here because of it. Whether head coach Ron Rivera's is among them remains to be seen, but certainly the Panthers aren't going to undergo quite as dramatic a turnover in personnel as they would had they closed out the season, say, 3-13.
Instead, the Panthers (5-9) will end up somewhere between 7-9 and 5-11. Still a losing record, but not quite as dark a season as it once appeared.
But as Rivera said last week following the Atlanta game in a quote that could go for this San Diego game as well: "This shows exactly what we are capable of. That's the sad part."
Cam Newton has now thrown more than 150 passes in a row without an interception, breaking a team record (he hasn't had a pickoff in five games). Newton had two TD passes Sunday but left most of the running to the backs after coming up gimpy early on a big hit, including Mike Tolbert (two rushing TDs) and DeAngelo Williams. Newton finished the game but obviously wasn't as mobile as usual.
It didn't matter because the Panthers' offensive line was superb and so was Carolina's defense. It made San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers look awkward and average, as he fumbled four times and was sacked six times. The Panthers were up 21-0 after the first quarter and 24-0 at halftime and basically coasted in from there.
So Rivera made his former boss, Norv Turner, more likely to get fired after his Chargers dropped to 5-9. And he made himself a little more likely to be retained with a Panther team that once again will be left to ponder, when this season concludes Dec. 30 in New Orleans, what might have been.