No, they won’t go undefeated. The Panthers lost that chance when they laid an egg in Atlanta in December.
But if the Panthers beat Denver Feb. 7 and convincingly win the Super Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif., they deserve to be known as one of the best teams ever.
A victory over the Broncos would push Carolina to an 18-1 mark, which would tie for the best record over a 19-game season (when the Miami Dolphins went undefeated in 1972, they only had to win 17 games).
Underrated for much of the season, the Panthers will be a favorite to win the Super Bowl over Denver. They don’t have the notoriety of the 1985 Chicago Bears or a few of the other teams, but you don’t go 17-1 by accident. If the 2015 Panthers make it to 18-1, though, they deserve to be ranked among the top half-dozen teams to ever play in the NFL.
▪ I never thought I’d see Larry “Legend” Fitzgerald drop passes like he did Sunday night.
▪ The Panthers’ Philly Brown (113 yards) had more receiving yardage than Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown put together (90 yards). We all saw that coming, right?
▪ Wide receiver Ted Ginn had a score to settle against Arizona, saying afterward: “Yes, it was personal.” Ginn said after the game he felt that the Cardinals in 2014 “deep down didn’t feel like I could do it” and “sent me back out to the wolves” after one unproductive year. Ginn had an incredible game against his old team, saving a touchdown on Patrick Peterson’s interception return, scoring on a 22-yard return and catching two other passes for 52 yards.
▪ Kurt Coleman now has nine interceptions this season when you include the playoffs. The one just before halftime, when he leaped high to intercept Carson Palmer right after Cam Newton was intercepted, was superb.
▪ Luke Kuechly recovered a fumble and also had an interception Sunday night – those were just two of the seven turnovers the Panthers forced Arizona into. Fans drowned out his brief speech during the trophy ceremony with cries of “LUUUUKE.”
▪ Kuechly was obviously concerned that fellow linebacker Thomas Davis broke his right arm during the game, saying afterward that Davis was “one of the best players on our team but a better person.” Davis said he will play in the Super Bowl against Denver, however, and I would certainly bet on him doing so.
▪ Kudos to safety Tre Boston, who had an interception and a fumble recovery Sunday night and also played well in relief of Roman Harper (eye injury). The Panthers disguised their injury-plagued secondary very well. It was another great coaching job by defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who probably should have gotten a head-coaching job for 2016 but – luckily for the Panthers – appears to be sticking around.