Tag Archives: New York Jets

Carolina Panthers playoff push continues with 30-20 win over Jets

Entering the fourth quarter, the Carolina Panthers knew they needed to make plays against the New York Jets (6-8). And this time it was a special-teamer – little-known Jason Williams – who blocked a punt early in the fourth quarter with Carolina clinging to a 16-13 lead and led to a Panthers touchdown. And everything turned around…just like that.

Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn set a team record with his fifth career interception returned for a touchdown.
Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn set a team record with his fifth career interception returned for a touchdown. (PHOTO: David T. Foster, Charlotte Observer)

Seven minutes later, Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn intercepted a pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown, giving the Cats an insurmountable 30-13 lead.  That play gave Munnerlyn his fifth career pick-six setting a team record . He previously shared the record with Mike Minter. Munnerlyn has seven career interceptions, so returning five for touchdowns is a remarkable feat.

The Jets did score once again, but could not come any closer. Final score, Panthers 30 Jets 20.

New York played tough on Sunday…like a team with nothing to lose. And that’s how they should be playing. See what talent you have and let ’em go after it. Carolina, on the other hand, now owns a 10-4 record, are in the 5th playoff slot, but, with a win next Sunday against the New Orleans Saints (also 10-4) and a win the following Sunday at Atlanta, the Panthers would win the NFC South and get a bye going into the playoffs.

While the Panthers win wasn’t pretty – I would call it workmanlike – it was critical. The NFL’s No.1 scoring defense gave up 20 points to the very average Jets (6-8). The Panthers had to kick three field goals when drives bogged down, and “Riverboat” Ron finally misfired, going for a fourth-and-2 and missing it.

But style points mean nothing in the NFL these days. Only wins do. And the Panthers now have 10 of them, including nine out of their last ten games.

Big plays…the blocked punt, the returned interception, a 72-yard touchdown reception by DeAngelo Williams…this has become the hallmark of the 2013 Panthers team. Making big plays when they need to and taking care of business for the rest of the game.

Like last week, the Panthers began slowly, getting only two field goals in two red zone opportunities early. They left eight potential points out there. And they are aware of this problem. In all, the Panthers went a dismal 1-for-5 inside the Jets’ 20 – a stat that usually doesn’t equal victory.

“We want to get the ball in the red zone – and score touchdowns,” left tackle Jordan Gross said. “But luckily we were able to keep the lead all game and our defense held them when they needed to. “We scored two touchdowns in other phases. It was definitely a team win.”

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (left) and Jets quarterback Geno Smith exchange jerseys after the game. (PHOTO: David T. Foster, Charlotte Observer)
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (left) and Jets quarterback Geno Smith exchange jerseys after the game. (PHOTO: David T. Foster, Charlotte Observer)

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton put a slight scare into the crowd, going into the locker room with one play left in the first half. Scrambling on third down late in the first half, Newton was tackled by New York defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who slammed him down on his left hip and landed on his lower body.

Newton jogged to the locker room, where they did not X-ray his foot. Coach Ron Rivera said he was never concerned about his quarterback. “Once I got in they told me they just wanted to make sure and that way they would be able to re-tape his ankle and get his shoe back on.”

Newton waited until the last-minute to emerge from the tunnel and jog back to the Carolina Panthers’ sideline to start the second half.

Head trainer Ryan Vermillion brought two extra pairs of cleats for Newton and placed them at the end of the bench while Newton warmed up.

He said after the game he’d be OK. “It’ll be all right. It was a shocker at first. As the game progressed it loosened up.”

“He stubbed his toe. They wanted to come in and make sure it was okay,” Rivera said. “We had a little bit of time, so they took him in early so they could take his shoe off, cut his tape off and take a look at it. But he is fine.”

PLAYOFF SCENARIOS:

It can be very simple: If the Panthers win out, Carolina will win the NFC South and receive a first-round bye. Or not. the 49ers, Panthers and Saints all sit at 10-4, but San Francisco lost to both New Orleans and Carolina this year. Arizona (9-5) is also in the mix for a wild card and would hold the tiebreaker with the Panthers if both teams finish with the same record. The next two weeks will be stressful for players, coaches, management, owners…and fans. But wildly entertaining if you just love football.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

  •  Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy said next week’s outcome would be different:  “I feel like we’re going to come out this week and win. That’s what we do. We’re going to show up. I have full confidence in my team,” Hardy said. “You know me, I’m going to work my behind off in practice and come out and dominate like I normally do. They should probably be ready for a battle.”
  • Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross on Coach Ron Rivera’s prediction that the next Saints game would be for the NFC title:  “Rivera told us that was going to happen. I didn’t know he was a fortune-teller.”
  • Gross said Rivera had told his downcast team on Monday – just a few hours after a prime-time, 31-13 pasting administered by the Saints on Dec. 8 – exactly what would happen in six days. “He said keep believing and keep working, because the Saints are going to lose one on the road and we’re going to play them in two weeks for the division title,” Gross said. “That guy believes, man. It’s pretty infectious.”
  • Panthers tight end Greg Olsen on what win number 10 meant:  “It’s kind of the rule of thumb every year is if we can get to 10 wins we have a pretty good chance at the playoffs. Between that and winning your division, those are the two things that give you the best chance of making it, and we’re in position now to accomplish both. We’re sitting in good position now, big home game for us and the fans are going to be fired up. We’re going to need them.”
  • Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on the win:  “It’s very big, We control our own destiny right now.”
  • Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell on the upcoming Saints game:  “I wish we could play tomorrow. We’ve got the Saints on our minds.”
  • Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn on the first Saints game and the one coming up:  “We just let Drew Brees dink and dunk us down the field and they made plays. I think it’s going to be a totally different game plan. I think we’re going to go out there. And we’re going to execute. And we’re going to win the game.”
  • Munnerlyn on defensive coordinator Sean McDermott’s late Saturday night film session at the team hotel:  “I think (McDermott) just saw something and he kept watching film. He said, ‘This is my life, man. I want to win this game so bad.’ He did a great job of seeing what they didn’t see, their weakness, and he attacked it.”
  • Munnerlyn reacting to the Jets’ receiver Santonio Holmes who, earlier in the week, had called the Panthers’ secondary the defense’s “weakest link.”:   “I’ve never been called out like that before. I have never been a part of nothing like that. If you think that, I never heard nobody say it. And he went out publicly and he said it. I’m the laid back guy in the group. I took it personal. I was fired up when I got to the stadium. I couldn’t wait to play. Maybe I need to get a little geeked before the game more.”
  • Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert on his fellow running back DeAngelo Williams – who broke free to score on a 72-yard touchdown catch and run – his longest reception of his career:  “I told him he looked slow. We’ll see how much cardio he does this week.”
  • Panthers safety Mike Mitchell:   “My coaches have engrained it in me so much I’m still not very happy about this game. We gave up 20 points, which is far too many.”
  • Jets linebacker Calvin Pace on the difficult season and hot they want to end it:  “Try to win these last two games and finish what we started. There’s still two opportunities to go out and play football, so it’s something to be thankful for.”
Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short tackles Jets quarterback Geno Smith during Sunday's game. (PHOTO: Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer)
Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short tackles Jets quarterback Geno Smith during Sunday’s game. (PHOTO: Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer)
  • Jets quarterback Geno Smith:   “There was plenty of positive today, but the way I am, I’m not even looking at that.”
Advertisements

Tragedy and Sports: 60 Years of Memories

After the shocking events of Friday, it was hard to think of sports this weekend. But we did, anyway. This will be my last column for the year…and the last one I will write as a 50-something. On Sunday, I turn 60 and I am not looking forward to it, but, to quote my late father, Robert, “It’s better than the alternative.” He was right.

President Obama speaking at Newtown High School Sunday night
President Obama speaking at Newtown High School Sunday night

Friday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School was as bad as it gets. When and more importantly, how, will we stop this from happening again. Watching the President last night, I think he’s had enough. I don’t know that gun control is the answer. Maybe we need to have those TSA-type scanners at every public gathering place – schools, malls, movies, houses of worship. I will leave that question to those much smarter than myself. And if you don’t think things will change, I believe you are wrong.

Innocence Lost
Innocence Lost

To know that those twenty innocent kindergarteners in Connecticut will not experience life is tragic. As it is for those teachers and the brave principal. While the adults lived a longer life, they too were taken way too early. For those beautiful children, however, this is what they will not experience: No graduations. No proms. No college acceptance (or rejection) letters. No lost (and found) loves. No weddings. No children of their own. Need I go on?

I absolutely cannot fathom how their parents, siblings, relatives and friends can find anything to be happy about during this most festive of seasons. You know there were presents bought…trees put up…stocking hung…I cannot imagine coming home and seeing those reminders. My heart breaks for those people…but I feel absolutely nothing for the shooter. I just think the media needs to STOP showing these murderers’ pictures and telling us their names. Who cares? We should be showing those little children and telling their names.

Turning 60 means I have seen a lot of good and bad events in my lifetime. I distinctly remember watching the Cuban Missile Crisis playing out; the day President Kennedy was shot; the day MLK was shot; the morning Robert Kennedy was shot; Vietnam; the Challenger explosion; John Lennon; 9/11, and the Virginia Tech massacre…do I need to go on? But, unfortunately, that’s part of growing old…you tend to remember where you were when you heard the news.

Grief stricken, but fans paid tribute to Newtown at Sunday night's 49ers-Patriots game in Foxboro
Grief stricken, but fans paid tribute to Newtown at Sunday night’s 49ers-Patriots game in Foxboro

And more recently, I have begun going to more funerals than I wish. I lost my mother, Edith, 15 years ago, at a young age. Just last February, I lost my father…who I know lost a lot of his lust for life when my mother was taken from him so tragically. And this fall, my best friend and his wife each lost their mothers…within two weeks of each other. It ain’t fun growing old, my friends.

In my 60 years, I have always had a strong connection with sports. From the professional level down to the youth level, sports has played a big part of my life. I reveled in championships won by teams I played for and coached…knowing they really meant nothing in the big picture. Other than saying for one season, things came together and we got a few breaks and ended up winning it all. I had the good fortune to coach my son, Matt, in baseball for many years. Our team won a championship game the way most in youth baseball are won…someone else made a mistake. A routine (yet longish) fly ball to the opposite field became a grand slam instead of the third out. Moving Matt from catcher to center field (a position he had never played before) in the last inning of that game was either a stroke of genius or pure luck. He ended up making the play of the game, throwing out the tying run on the best throw of his life. Am I saying he won the game for us…no…he put our team in a position to win. And, in sports, and business too, that’s what you want. To be in a position to win.

When I was an associate publisher of a national trade newspaper, my goal was to beat the competition. While we hardly ever went into a presentation together, but I would ready myself for the pitch as if they would be there. I usually made the sale, because I was prepared. I was in a position to win…I knew the questions they would ask me before they knew them. Sports prepared me for the business world.

The Kraft family is donating $25,000 to Newtown.
The Kraft family is donating $25,000 to Newtown.

Last season, I watched, along with millions, as UNC Asheville’s basketball team scared the daylights out of the number one seed in the East, Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament. In the final two minutes of the game, Asheville lead. The Bulldogs put themselves in a position to become the first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed. However, a missed call by the officials gave Syracuse the ball, changed the momentum and denied Asheville the opportunity to possibly win the game. They were in the position to win, though.

Turning 60 means I have seen EVERY Super Bowl played. EVERY ONE. Even in those dark years living in Baltimore when the city didn’t have an NFL team (and yes, I actually saw the Mayflower moving vans drive by my neighborhood on that early March morning when the Colts were hijacked to Indianapolis). The Super Bowl was the ONLY NFL game I watched those years. I found things to do on Sunday’s other than watch the league. And, you can check it out, television ratings during the regular season in Baltimore plunged…because we didn’t have a team. No wonder no one in Los Angeles is concerned about not having a team…there is a lot more to do out there than in Baltimore…yet the league seems bound and determined to make that happen soon (2014?).

Herm Edwards said so eloquently, “You play to win the game.”  Turning 60 means I understand that. But sometimes, you need to suffer losses to really revel in the wins.

I have spent this weekend with one of UNC Asheville’s basketball players. He was not able to join his team for their 8-day road trip to Ohio State, Northeastern and St. John’s. We spent yesterday in the hospital, where he was having surgery performed on his ankle…for the second time this year. He absolutely hates not being there for his teammates…his brothers…because he could certainly help this young Bulldogs team a lot. You can see it in his face…he’s hurting a lot more from this than from the pain of the surgery. He will appreciate not only the wins next season, but the losses as well. He will prepare for harder for next season because he cannot play this year.

And that’s what I love about sports. The fact that you go into games and practices together…you win or lose together. And you stay friends with a lot of your teammates forever.

Sports has a way of healing. The baseball games played after the 9/11 attacks were meaningful in a lot more ways than just a game in the standings. In New York, especially, it brought back a sense of normality. Playing this weekend, we saw the Patriots and Giants wearing tributes to the Connecticut tragedy. Tonight, the Jets will do the same.

The Giants helmet tribute
The Giants helmet tribute

So, after a little rambling, here’s what I really remember about my 60 years of being involved with sports: everything. I remember so many of the baseball games I attended…seeing some of the greatest players in history – in person…I remember seeing the Immaculate Reception on a small black-and-white television in my cousin’s apartment…I remember the first Super Bowl (not called that, by the way)…I remember the great Bird-Magic match-ups…I remember the Miracle on Ice…so many events that I won’t bore you. But when magazines or television programs talk about the “best ever” or “greatest game ever”, you can be assured I probably saw them (or it).I also remember knowing all the statistics for every player on my favorite teams when I was young. My father told me he used to know them when he was young, but had little use for them now. I didn’t quite believe him…but I certainly do now. I do not memorize stats anymore because, well, I have little use for them now. I also remember he was not much of a sports fan, but he did take me to games…something those 20 innocent, beautiful children will never get a chance to do.