The Carolina Panthers blasted the San Diego Chargers 31-7 at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, putting together back-to-back victories for the first time since last December.
Cam Newton played another exceptional game, completing 19-of-33 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. The second-year quarterback has now thrown 153 passes without an interception – currently the longest such streak in the NFL.
Bruising fullback Mike Tolbert also scored a pair of one-yard touchdowns against his former team.
Unfortunately, the Panthers, now 5-9, were eliminated from the playoffs more than a month ago.
In two seasons under Ron Rivera, the Panthers have followed the same formula – knock yourself out of contention early and then win “meaningless” games late.
Last year, the team began 2-8, but won four of the final six games to finish with a 6-10 record. This year, the team started 2-8, and now has won three of the last four to improve to 5-9.
So what does this all mean for head coach Ron Rivera, and, more importantly, the future of this team?
Are these wins fool’s gold or are we witnessing true growth?
These are the questions that everyone is asking – and they are the right questions to ask.
When you take the pulse of Panthers nation through the blogosphere and talk radio, they seem to be split down the middle when it comes to keeping Rivera for at least another year.
One thing has become abundantly clear: The players are going out there every Sunday and playing their tails off for their coach. The vibe in the locker room is clearly “pro-Rivera,” and there’s a lot to be said for that.
“I hope he’s (Rivera) here to stay,” Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I’m going to play my heart out for him.”
I have been one of the biggest Rivera critics from the get-go, but the last few weeks have caused me to take at least one foot off the “fire everybody” bandwagon.
What’s your take?
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