Perfect is the most unbending of standards.
Back in the 2007 NFL season, the New England Patriots actually started 18-0, topping the ’72 Miami Dolphins’ standard by one game but that reality turned into nothing more than a footnote in the end because the New York Giants upset those Pats, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII. And just like that, David Tyree’s helmet became a bigger deal than Randy Moss’ 23 touchdown receptions.
You finish the job or it doesn’t count.
That inflexible measuring stick is the second opponent that the Carolina Panthers are up against each and every week in ’15 as they try to walk together in history as the NFL’s 21st century version of Curt Hennig.
Context can shine a light on certain things and prove just how impressive Carolina has already been.
Things like the realization that we are now on our 391st consecutive day since the Panthers last lost an NFL regular season game, a 31-13 setback to the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 30 of last year. Or how about the fact that if Cam Newton and Co. handle their business on Sunday and stomp out the Atlanta Falcons’ faint playoff hopes, they will have traversed all of ’15 without one, regular-season hiccup.
As impressive as all that sounds, however, perfect doesn’t care about the bullet points on one’s resume, it remains resolute, obstinate and uncompromising.
So much so, that many believe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Ron Rivera to let up on the gas in Week 17 and rest some of the Panthers’ key contributors because a win over the Falcons this weekend would secure that the road to Super Bowl 50 will run through Charlotte on the NFC side.
Those striving for perfection, though, should never be listening to the “get-the-loss-out-of-your-system crowd.”
Yeah, there is still a margin of error over the next two weeks for the Panthers that will evaporate after that, but a scared mentality doesn’t get you to 14-0 in the first place and those who play the game fearfully or refuse to want to take the toughest and most stringent of tests, generally aren’t the ones you want advice from.
Put it this way, greatness generally doesn’t mingle with good at parties.
You can’t legislate injuries in the NF–or anywhere else for that matter–and few realize that more than the Panthers especially after Cam Newton’s car accident just over a year ago. The presumptive MVP suffered two transverse process fractures in his lower back last December and he did it driving to practice.
So to assume putting Cam or any other key cog in bubble wrap for Week 17 is the fail-safe isn’t go to stop someone one from getting hurt in practice, slipping in the shower or even tumbling off their brand new hoverboard they just got for Christmas.
Historic teams don’t worry about the obstacles put in front of them. They just deal with them and move on.
To be fair, that doesn’t mean managing risks and sitting down certain players in a blowout isn’t a prudent decision. Or that a setback in Week 16 or 17 by the Panthers, coupled with the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl 50 victory, wouldn’t be the greatest moment in this franchise’s history.
In fact, that ultimate end game would take little away from the accomplishment save for the right to be compared with the ’72 Dolphins.
There’s an adage in sports, however, that says, if you’re scared, go buy a dog.
And we are about to see if Rivera got a puppy over the holidays.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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