Sunday, Robbie and I went to our first Panthers game.
Yep, that's me rockin' the Keyshawn Johnson
jersey I got on eBay for 16 bucks!
We were joined by Ben, who was in town from Chicago to root on his Bears. Ben and I made a bet: If the Panthers win, he would have to wear my Panthers shirt when he "guest coaches" my middle school basketball team at Monday's practice; if the Bears win, I'd wear his shirt to practice.
He'll look good in black and Panthers blue, baby!
For much of the game, it seemed I'd have to wear his "Ditka is God" t-shirt, though, as the Bears took advantage of a bunch of Panthers mistakes to race to a 21-7 lead.
But when Robbie Gould shockingly went wide-right on a 35-yard FG late in the first half and then Cam Newton marched the Panthers downfield for a TD pass to Greg Olsen seconds before halftime, I began to think my adopted team had a chance.
As it turned out, it was just a matter of waiting for the inevitable screw-ups by Jay Cutler & Co. A horribly thrown pass by Cutler with about 6 minutes left was intercepted and led to a FG that tied it at 24. On Chicago's very next offensive play, Matt Forte fumbled and the Panthers recovered. Newton and Olsen connected in the end zone again, and the Panthers had the lead with just over 2 minutes to go.
The Bears' last hope ended with Cutler getting sacked and fumbling. The stadium was rocking, with Panthers fans out-shouting the thousands of Bear backers who showed up.
Up in Section 535, we were surrounded by Bears fans - including the guy in front of me who for some reason decided to wear his Olsen #82 jersey. Really, this yahoo wanted to be reminded about the awful trade that gave away one of the NFL's best tight ends? In an interview last week, Jerry Angelo finally admitted the trade was a bad one.
Thanks, Jerry! No wonder you're now an ex-GM.
I wasn't surprised the Bears imploded - especially Cutler, who has won one playoff game in his entire career and whose job title should read "Coach Killer Extraordinaire." I was a little surprised by the screw-ups of Gould and Forte, two of the few reliable Bears.
I am happy for good-guy Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who spent his entire playing career in Chicago and, as defensive coordinator, helped the Bears reach the 2007 Super Bowl. This season, Rivera has beaten both his former team and Lovie Smith, the now-Bucs coach who inexplicably fired Rivera after the Super Bowl so he could hire his incompetent buddy, Bob Babich. Hey, Rivera was too good for Lovie the Loser, anyway!
While the Bears prepare to fall to sub-mediocrity, "my" Panthers are alone in first place in the NFC South ... at least for a week. The brutal upcoming schedule includes these next three games: at Cinci, at Green Bay and home vs. Seattle.
So playing the Bears at home represented a must-win situation. And thanks in great part to the Bears' largess, win the Panthers did.