The Carolina Panthers rode unity, devotion, simplicity, cohesiveness, and hunger to the Super Bowl last season, but they fell short. While America applauded as the favorites and as they put it, cocky team were forced to surrender, those same fans were too stuck on themselves to ponder the thought, this was just the beginning for Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Jonathan Stewart and Kelvin Benjamin. Yes, that Benjamin, the one who didn’t play last season. And before you go check the stats and IR Report, let me hit you with this. The Panthers still managed to win 17 games without their leading receiver.
It gets better or worse depending on your allegiance.
The Panthers finished the regular season as the highest scoring team in the NFL with players like Greg Olsen, Tedd Ginn, Corey brown, Devin Funchess and Jerricho Cotchery. Where’s Benjamin’s name? How many fans outside of Carolina would put either one of these receivers on their weekly fantasy team? And while many cheered as the Denver Broncos stifled the Panthers receivers, on the sidelines watching, waiting was Benjamin.
To be honest, how many NFL fans really know what Benjamin is capable of? His rookie year he caught 73 passes for 1008 yards and 9 TDs as a rookie that was still learning the game while building chemistry with Newton. But this is where the story gets a little deeper. When Benjamin takes the field in 2016 he will play with the same players but not the same team. That Panthers team of 2014 is long gone, the names on the back is still the same but the mentalities of those players have progressed. No longer is their thought process, “lets just make the playoffs and see what happens” this is a team that is ” Super Bowl or Bust”.
As Panthers fans watched in horror as their mighty offense failed to make any noise against the stingy Broncos defense their thoughts began to drift to #13, the big burly 6-5, 240lb WR with deceptive speed and hands as magnetic as Jerry Rice. “What if” was their collective thoughts as the clock hit zero and orange and blue confetti began to trickle down from the sky, “what if”.
As Newton sat in that now legendary press conference he must’ve thought the same, “What if”, come September 8th against that same Broncos team the Panthers, Broncos and NFL fans will no longer need to wonder, the missing link will be there.