Midway through the second quarter in Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game, the Carolina Panthers led the Seattle Seahawks 31-0. They didn’t score again.
Yes, Seattle scored 24 unanswered points, ultimately losing after Carolina recovered an onside kick in the final seconds.
Former Panthers and current Panthers sideline reporter Jordan Gross was sweating bullets for much of the second half, as he felt Seattle had a legitimate shot of coming back and winning the game.
“You never know,” Gross said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I’ve played in enough football games. I’ve seen so many crazy things. I’ve seen my team come back. I’ve seen other teams come back. The way that game stated, it shows you how quickly teams can score. The Panthers got up two touchdowns in a couple minutes. Anything can happen.”
“But honestly,” Gross continued, “what’s different from this team than any team I was on, is the fact you’ve got everybody on that sideline buying in. That ‘Keep pounding’ mantra that started with Sam Mills during that 2003 season – they say it and they mean it. There’s really never a moment where the guys are panicking on the sidelines or everybody’s pointing fingers. It’s like, ‘All right, let’s just keep working and get this thing done.’ It’s pretty special to see.”
Carolina will host Arizona in the NFC Championship this Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET. The Cardinals beat the Packers, 26-20, in a wild overtime game Saturday night, as Larry Fitzgerald finished with eight catches for 176 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
Gross said the key to the NFC Championship will be Carolina’s ability to pressure Carson Palmer with its defensive line, thus allowing its linebackers to drop back into pass coverage.
The Panthers are favored to win and need to win. Otherwise, Gross said, the season would be “100 percent” a disappointment.
“I would even go a step further and say if they don’t win the Super Bowl, it’ll be a massive disappointment,” Gross said. “My final season 2013, we went 12-4, had the No 2 seed, lost to the San Francisco 49ers in our first game after the bye and people were saying, ‘Man, it’s great, we won the division, we were 12-4 – it’s been a long time since we’ve done that.’ Everybody was disappointed in the loss but happy we did what we did. Last year was kind of the same thing. The team ended up 7-8-1, and so to win the first round in the playoffs and then lose at Seattle, everybody thought, ‘It was a good season. We turned it around in the end.’ Well, this year, you can’t win 15 games and build everybody’s excitement up and not win the Super Bowl. I know inside the building that’s how they’re feeling, and I know especially all the Carolina Panthers fans in North and South Carolina (feel) that anything short of winning the Super Bowl, they’re going to be very disappointed.”