Bringing a Super Bowl to the Carolinas is one of David Tepper's primary goals, but the team seems to have a long way to go before it wins another NFC Championship. Jerry Richardson could not win a Super Bowl during his time as the Panthers' owner, but there were two seasons where the team was only one game away from hoisting the Lombardi. Considering that the team just completed its twenty-sixth season, the Carolina Panthers have experienced a tremendous amount of success, but there is still that dark shadow that looms over the city of Charlotte. Let's look over the Panthers' Super Bowl appearances.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
The 2003-04 season was special to say the very least. The Panthers entered this game with all the momentum in the world. They defeated the Cowboys in the wild card, escaped the Rams in arguably the greatest divisional round game in NFL history, and held the Eagles to three points in the NFC Championship game. This team consisted of Panthers greats such as Steve Smith, Jake Delhomme, Stephen Davis, Muhsin Muhammad, Jordan Gross, Julius Peppers, Kris Jenkins, Mike Rucker, Dan Morgan, and Mike Minter. In other words, the Panthers' front office assembled a squad that year. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick's Patriots were the only obstacle in their way.
So, what happened?
John Kasay happened. After wide receiver Ricky Proehl scored a touchdown to make it 29-29 with 1:09 left in the fourth quarter, the Panthers' defense desperately needed Tom Brady to be placed in bad field position in order to bring Charlotte its first Lombardi. However, the exact opposite occurred.
During the kickoff following Proehl's touchdown, Kasay kicked the ball out of bounds, which placed Tom Brady on the forty-yard line. Brady proceeded to get the Patriots in proper field position to set up Adam Vinatieri for the game-winning field goal. Tom Brady won his second ring while the Panthers came away with nothing but great memories that came with the 2003-04 season.
The Panthers didn't return to the Super Bowl for another twelve years. Then, the magical 15-1 season happened.
Super Bowl 50
It is arguable that the 2015 team was even better than the 2003 team, and that is largely because of 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton. Newton recorded over 3,800 passing yards and 35 passing touchdowns that season. He also rushed for over 600 yards and 10 touchdowns. Newton performed at this level while throwing to receivers such as Corey Brown and Ted Ginn Jr. His greatest weapon was Mr. Reliable, Greg Olsen. Carolina's all-time rushing leader Jonathan Stewart was also important to this offense. He scored the Panthers' only touchdown in Super Bowl 50.
Because Carolina's defense was impressive throughout the 2015 season, Newton was provided with more opportunities to make explosive plays on the field. This unit had Luke Kuechly, Kawann Short, Charles Tillman, Josh Norman, Star Lotulelei, Charles Johnson, Shaq Thompson, and Thomas Davis, who played in the Super Bowl with a broken arm. This defense was vicious and made up for the lack of Carolina's offensive firepower.
This team had a 15-1 record during the 2015 regular season and cruised through the playoffs with ease in comparison to Carolina's previous Super Bowl team. In the NFC Championship Game, this team destroyed the Arizona Cardinals in a 49-15 blowout to reach the Super Bowl once again. This was the perfect opportunity for the Carolina Panthers to finally reach the mountaintop.
The Denver Broncos had something to say about that.
Peyton Manning along with one of the greatest defenses in NFL history came into the game with more motivation than the Panthers, and it was clear from the start. "SuperCam's kryptonite" turned out to be consistent pressure from the Broncos' relentless pass rush, and there was nothing Newton was able to do about it. If Newton couldn't get going, then the rest of the offense was going to be stagnant, and that is exactly what occurred. Newton went 18/41 and threw for 265 yards and one interception. The Panthers turned the ball over four times in the loss, including... that fumble. You know what I'm talking about.
Peyton Manning's stats were very pedestrian; he threw for 141 yards and an interception. The Broncos' defense led this team to victory from the very start, and the game was barely competitive on the line of scrimmage. Super Bowl MVP Von Miller was all over the Panthers' backfield as he recorded 2.5 sacks and two strip-sacks. Carolina's offensive line had no chance, which ultimately gave Cam Newton limited opportunities to be the playmaker he was all season.
The Broncos won the game 24-10, and that was all she wrote.
The Carolina Panthers may return to the Super Bowl one day, and when that day comes, fans will probably be more anxious than ever due to the team's previous appearances. However, there is hope! This is still a young organization in comparison to the rest of the league, and David Tepper has been making major changes since he took over as owner. Even though some of his decisions haven't been the most popular, it seems as though the team is in much better hands now. The future is bright in Carolina; fans just have to be patient.
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