It’s a pretty amazing piece of information when you think about it. Of course, it’s probably the last thing on the mind of the Carolina Panthers at this moment. The last time a team lost the Super Bowl then came back the following season to claim the Lombardi Trophy was more than 40 years ago.
That would be the perfect Miami Dolphins of 1972, led by Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula. That club posted a 14-7 win in Super Bowl VII, culminating a 17-0 season, one year after losing to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI (24-3).
These days, the defending NFC champions are reeling after a 1-3 start. Quarterback Cam Newton has taken a beating in the early stages of the season, sacked 13 times in four games. He left Sunday’s stunning 48-33 loss to the Atlanta Falcons with a concussion (documented by Ken Belson of The New York Times), hit hard on his way to the end zone on a successful two-point conversion attempt.
The reigning league MVP has gotten off to a very ordinary start this year. He’s thrown for 974 yards and six touchdowns but he’s completing only 57.9 percent of his passes and has turned over the football a half-dozen times. One year after committing only 19 turnovers in 16 regular-season contests, the Panthers have already coughed up the football 10 times.
But this is a club with even bigger issues on the other side of the ball. A year ago, Ron Rivera’s club allowed 19.3 points per game and only 32 offensive touchdowns. Four games into ’16, Carolina has allowed 29.5 points per contest (21 or more in each outing) and Luke Kuechly and company have already allowed a dozen offensive visits to the end zone.
Does the team miss 2015 All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, now a member of the Washington Redskins? When you see Falcons wideout Julio Jones light up your secondary for 300 yards and a touchdown on just 12 catches, it’s hard to imagine this club wouldn’t be better with the boisterous but talented defender.
This is a crucial stretch for the Panthers, who are in the midst of a three-game streak vs. their NFC South rivals. They host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Monday night before heading to the Big Easy to take on the New Orleans Saints. There’s still plenty of time to mount a comeback and having running back Jonathan Stewart back in the lineup would help. It doesn’t help that Newton is leading the team in rushing with 147 yards.
Back in 2013, these Panthers overcame a 1-3 start to win the NFC South (after the Saints opened 5-0 that season). There’s plenty of football ahead but it’s been a disappointing start for a very talented team.