Panthers Did What?
December 31, 2015
Week after week I have been writing about the Carolina Panthers winning games. I have written about comebacks, clutch plays at a vital moment, and late mistakes by the opposition. Not this week.
The Atlanta Falcons took a third quarter lead on a 70-yard touchdown reception, the Panthers came up empty in two possessions in the final few minutes as the Falcons held on for a 20-13 victory on Sunday.
For the first time this season, there was no rally for Carolina. No big play at a key moment. No costly mistake by its opponent in the last few minutes.
As a result, the perfect start is over for Cam Newton and the Panthers.
Cam Newton in last Sunday’s game
Carolina got the ball for the last time with 90 seconds left and no time-outs remaining. Newton completed a 19-yard pass to Corey Brown on first down but fumbled when stripped by Vic Beasley Jr. on the following play. Adrian Clayborn recovered for the Falcons, wrapping up the win.
It was Carolina’s first regular-season loss since Nov. 30, 2014, at Minnesota. What was even more unexpected was that the Panthers did not get into the end zone after their opening drive. Newton came back to earth as he threw for just 142 yards and was held without a touchdown pass for only the second time this season. He ran for 46 yards, including an eight-yard scoring run on the Panthers’ opening drive. After that, Carolina’s only points came on two second-half field goals from Graham Gano.
Carolina’s 13 points set a season low. The Panthers had scored at least 24 points in 13 straight games. Two weeks ago, Carolina beat Atlanta 38-0.
Panthers’ fans will be quick to point out that their team still has the best mark in the league at 14-1. They will likely follow that statement up by saying that the pressure of being undefeated is now gone and the team can now concentrate on the playoffs.
We’ll see. But right now I like Arizona as the best team in the NFC.
Don’t Forget About Westbrook
MVP talk in the NBA has already started with most of the attention going to the likes of Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
Those who favor Curry talk about how the Golden State Warriors are off to a 28-1 start after winning the title last year. Curry was the MVP last year and is playing at a higher level this season.
And LeBron. Well, he is LeBron.
Let me throw another name in the picture. Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma Thunder is recording numbers that the game has not seen since hall of famer Oscar Robertson posted.
Thunder’s Russell Westbrook
Westbrook has emerged from teammate Kevin Durant’s shadow. The Thunder is his team now and they are off to a 21-10 start.
Heading into this week, Westbrook was averaging an eye-catching 25.5 points per game (fifth in the league), 9.4 assists (third), 6.9 rebounds (50th) and 2.4 steals (first).
Again, we have not seen stats like this before. Should he keep them up, Westbrook would become the only player besides Robertson, the walking triple-double, to average 25 points, nine assists and 6.5 rebounds per game over the course of an entire season.
College Football Attendance Dropping
I read the before-mentioned headline last week and had to look into it. I found it surprising that it is true.
Home attendance at major college football games declined this season. What surprised me even more is that this marks the fifth consecutive year attendance has dropped.
NCAA Division I attendance is now averaging 43,288 fans per game, down from 43, 483 in 2014. That is just a one percent drop after a four percent drop in 2014.
TV numbers are up so I have to attribute the trend of fans staying home due to rising ticket prices and the comfort of watching on high-definition televisions.
Attendance stayed below 46,000 for the seventh consecutive season since it peaked at 46,456 in 2008.
Michigan returned atop the attendance leaders this past fall at 110,168 fans per game. Some of the biggest declines came from high profile schools. UCLA had a 13 percent drop, Texas had a 12 percent drop, and Florida State had a 11 percent decrease.
One drop that surprise me was in Chapel Hill. Despite the success North Carolina had on the field, the Heels saw a nine percent drop in attendance.
The biggest increases came with Pitt (17 percent) and Virginia (10 percent).
The SEC once again led the country in attendance and set a record by averaging close to 79,000 fans a game. The ACC, once again, ranked last among Power Five schools at 48,577, down 3 percent from last year. No. 1 Clemson was up 2 percent and jumped Notre Dame and South Carolina, two teams it beat on the field, among national attendance leaders.
I am not sure what these numbers mean, but for my money, college football in person is still the best game in town.