There won’t be a pro bowler at every position

CHARLOTTE Russell Color Rush Shepard Jersey , N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton can’t keep from grinning when he looks around at the playmakers that surround him in the Panthers‘ locker room.“The talent level we have on this team is extremely scary,” Newton said.The Panthers proved that again Sunday.Article continues below ...Newton completed 19 of 25 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns, running back Christian McCaffrey racked up 157 total yards and scored twice and second-year wide receiver Curtis Samuel scored on a 33-yard double reverse and hauled in a 19-yard TD catch midway through the fourth quarter to seal Carolina’s 42-28 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.The Panthers (6-2) are on a roll midway through the season, scoring 99 points in the last nine quarters.They have wide receivers that can run the ball, running backs that can catch, a big body receiver, a third-down receiving specialist, one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league and, of course, a one-time league MVP at quarterback who can do it all.Those weapons were all on display in the first half as the Panthers scored touchdowns on five straight possessions to build a 35-7 lead en route to their 10th straight win at home.Even a little “Fitzmagic” wasn’t enough for the Buccaneers (3-5).Ryan Fitzpatrick Jordan Scarlett Jersey , who started in place of the turnover-prone Jameis Winston, finished with 243 yards passing and four touchdowns — two each to Adam Humphries and O.J. Howard — and led the Bucs back to within 35-28 in the fourth quarter before running out of steam.Fitzpatrick threw two costly interceptions — one on the game’s second possession which led to Carolina’s first touchdown, and other late in the fourth quarter that sealed the Bucs’ fate.“We know we have the talent, it’s just we can’t keep digging ourselves in these holes, especially on the road,” Fitzpatrick said.The deficit — and Carolina’s offensive firepower — proved too much.Tight end Greg Olsen called the versatility the Panthers now have on offense with players like McCaffrey, Samuel and D.J. Moore is unlike anything he’s seen since his arrival in Carolina in 2011.“We have guys who are so explosive, so dynamic and so good in the open space,” Olsen said. “We can give them balls on handoffs, throw it to them all — they’re very unique in that regard. I don’t know what we have had this many guys who are that dynamic with the ball in their hands.”That was evident throughout.McCaffrey leaped a defender on a reception in the flat and kept going , racing 32 yards for a first down. Samuel’s 33-yard TD on the reverse included the speedster reversing field and running a combined 103 yards , according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. And Olsen, the cagey veteran, hauled in a one-handed catch in the end zone — his third TD in three weeks.“We were playing with momentum and when you’re playing like that, we have a lot of juice coming our way so it does make it very fun,” McCaffrey said.Said Newton: “When it’s clicking, it’s clicking.”BREAKING THE PATTERNBucs coach Dirk Koetter is eager to find a solution for his team, which seems to be stuck in a repeating pattern.“We go out, we get behind, we get killed in the second quarter Will Grier Jersey , then rally like (heck) in the third quarter and then everybody thinks we’re back in it and then we fade off at the end,” Koetter said. “That’s definitely the pattern that we’re in. If I knew one thing to fix it I’d do it right now, but I don’t know what that is.”ADDISON TURNS IN TRIFECTAPanthers defensive end Mario Addison had a big game with three sacks to raise his team-leading total to 7½.“I’m a pretty strong guy,” said the 6-foor-3, 260-pound Addison. “People underestimate me because I look kind of small but I pack a punch. By the time they miss and my hands get on the inside of them, I’m running them back and they’re like ‘Dang, this guy’s stronger than I thought.'”SLAMMING THE DOORThe Panthers have been touting James Bradberry as their shutdown cornerback and he did quite a number on Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, who finished with one catch for 16 yards despite being targeted 10 times.Panthers coach Ron Rivera called Bradberry’s defense “as solid as it gets.”THIEVES AVENUEThe Panthers secondary is coming up with big turnovers this season. Carolina has 11 interceptions at the midway point of the season after just 10 picks last season. Jackson, a rookie, has four of them.“The secondary is shaping up nicely and the more they play together the more chances they will have ,” Rivera said.NATIONAL ANTHEMPanthers safety Eric Reid took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial and social injustice.INJURIESBuccaneers: None reported.Panthers: Reid left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury, but returned to the game.UP NEXTBuccaneers: Host Washington on Sunday.Panthers: Play four of their next five games on the road, beginning Thursday night at Pittsburgh. Thus ends another season. A year of innovative offenses chewing up yards and spitting out points is, of course, defined by the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever. It’s defining play was a record long punt, because football is weird and nothing in this game is constant. Well, nothing except for the Patriots. The gravity of their success is difficult to watch. I don’t mean to infer that their wins are of remarkable import or serious nature. I mean gravity in the sense that the Patriots function as close as you can get to a law of nature. When you drop an apple, it falls on another winning season and/or Super Bowl appearance and/or Super Bowl victory for Tom Brady and Bill Belichik.The Panthers are a part of their dynasty only because historians often make footnotes of those peoples conquered during an empire’s rise. The Patriots get to celebrate their dynasty because history is written by the victors, a status and a privilege the Panthers have never known. They have never written their own history. The end to their season, and how fans feel about it Brian Burns Jersey , always has to wait for other teams to finish playing.We can write for weeks leading up to the end of a season about why the Panthers didn’t make the playoffs, or got bounced early, or came up just short. But, because football is weird and nothing is constant, the final word has to wait for some other franchise to make history. The story is never complete without all of its context. Then we can say at least the Saints didn’t make it to the Super Bowl; at least the Patriots didn’t win again; at least the Falcons lost in an all-time fourth quarter collapse.This year there are no good guys left. The evil empire has extended its reign and we have to talk about the Panthers season in the context of other teams’ successes again. The Falcons, in spite of their recent struggles, still have a potent offense. So do the Saints, in spite of Drew Brees’ antiquity. The Bucs have put together an on-paper fantastic coaching staff —now is the time for Jameis Winston to succeed, if there is ever one. The Rams and the Chiefs, in spite of their losses to that team Ryan Kalil Color Rush Jersey , will probably continue to dominate the NFL and rewrite records throughout the 2019 regular season. In the face of all of this, the Panthers have lost Julius Peppers, who was still one of their best defensive linemen at the age of 37. They will lose Thomas Davis, who more than earned his playing time last season. Their Safety situation is entirely uncertain, with both Eric Reid and Mike Adams set to hit free agency. There is also the part where Adams turns 38 before the draft even starts. They do not appear poised for the kind of defensive success that won the Super Bowl last night. Not in 2019.On offense, the Panthers have a quarterback who is recovering from his second surgery on his throwing shoulder in three years. They have a star tight end who has broken his foot twice in as many years and will probably soon have to stop growing his legendary win-streak beards to hide the gray. Cam Newton was injured enough to need those surgeries in part because the last Left Tackle worth mentioning for this team was Michael Oher. It is also telling that no other quarterback was capableof playing an entire game behind the most recent Panthers' offensive lone. That's all before they lost an all-pro Center who cut his teeth snapping the ball for Jake Delhomme. Ryan Kalil was as close to a constant as this —or any— franchise will ever know.Even if the team can put a defense on paper, how can anybody expect this offense to keep up with the rest of the league? The answer to that is simple: because football is weird and nothing is constant.Newton has said, both publicly and directly to Ron Rivera, that his shoulder is already better than he expected. Any chance of the Panthers writing their own story in 2019 starts with his health. There is a chance that he will be throwing by training camp. That would be invaluable in helping with the second most visible problem with the Panthers passing game last season. Newton had no chemistry with his young targets. DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel Luke Kuechly Color Rush Jersey , and Ian Thomas are all poised for breakout seasons in 2019. The ability to practice with their quarterback will make all the difference for them. The ability for that quarterback to make a throw deeper than seven yards —the most visible problem with the 2018 Panthers passing game— will make all the difference for the season as a whole.The potential for star power and fireworks still lies within this team. The legends that Panthers fans were raised with may have finally retired, but they don’t leave behind a team that is entirely barren of talent. The holes in the roster on the offensive and defensive lines are few enough that they can be at least patched in free agency and the draft. There won’t be a pro bowler at every position, but Chris Clark and Efe Obada proved last year that you don’t have to be a world beater to be part of a winning effort.A successful off season, meaning a well-run draft and smart spending in free agency, leaves this team a lot closer to their 6-2 start from 2018 than it does their 1-7 finish. Add in a healthy Newton —fingers crossed— and the Panthers become a team that only really have to worry about the fact that football is weird and nothing stays constant. They could be prepared for everything else.
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