New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes has been injured for much of the 2013 season, missing five games and seeing limited time in the games he has dressed for. That has led to a very pedestrian stat line of 16 receptions for 381 yards and one touchdown this year. The absence of Santonio Holmes has weakened an already-thin receiving corps for the Jets this season. Without trying, Santonio Holmes ended up effectively calling out the Carolina Panthers secondary this week.
The Carolina Panthers are entering the game with the New York Jets looking to bounce back from a loss to the New Orleans Saints that could end up costing them the NFC South division crown unless the Saints falter down the stretch. As such, head coach Ron Rivera has likely been looking for ways to get his team motivated for the game with the Jets this weekend. If Rivera was having trouble doing so, Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes bailed him out – while trying to avoid doing so.
"Not to call these guys out," Holmes told NJ.com, "but their secondary is probably the weakest link on their defense."
That's a fairly innocent comment. In some ways it could even be seen as a compliment, as the Panthers are fifth in the league in defending the pass this season. Some of that credit goes to the strength of the Carolina front seven, but the secondary has played well this season. It truly doesn't seem as though Santonio Holmes was looking to needle the Panthers defensive backs, but one would expect him to be aware of the way his words can be twisted.
As any good motivator would, Ron Rivera is using those words as motivation for his entire team. He has sold his team on having each other's backs, so any perceived slight to his secondary will be taken personally by the entire Panthers locker room.
Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn didn't downplay the impact of the quote, as he told The Charlotte Observer:
"If [Santonio Holmes] feels that way, there's a game that's going to be played at 4:05 on Sunday and we'll see what's going to happen then."
In the end, words never mean much on the field. It can be seen as a motivator, something to prove, but between the lines it will come down to which team can execute on Sunday. The Jets receivers versus the Panthers secondary will be one of the matchups to watch.
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