Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera says that after looking at the tape his team did not perform as poorly in the first half Sunday as hed believed.
But if the tape is honest it told Rivera that the Panthers did not play well. It told him that the Panthers didnt dominate Miami the way they did Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Atlanta.
It told him that they didnt play defense the way they did against San Francisco or offense the way they did against New England.
This shouldnt be a surprise; teams and athletes have days when theyre off.
Who should we blame Rivera, his staff or his players?
There is no blame.
Arent you better at your job some days than you are on others?
If you run, play basketball or lift weights, play Texas Hold Em, pool or the guitar, arent there days when, for no reason youve ever been able to figure out, youre not as good as you were the previous week?
At 10-1, Seattle has the best record in the NFL. Some days the Seahawks are outstanding. But they arent outstanding every day.
The Seahawks beat Houston by three points, Tampa Bay (when the Buccaneers were still winless) by three points and St. Louis (when the Rams were in their bottom-feeder phase) by five points.
Yet in Super Bowl odds released Monday by Bovada.lv, the Seahawks supplanted Denver as Super Bowl favorites.
The odds against the Seahawks are 3-1. Denver is next at 7-2. New England and New Orleans are third at 13-2.
On Oct. 10 New Orleans lost to the New York Jets 26-20.
On Nov. 3 New England lost to the Jets 30-27.
Bovada.lvs odds against the Jets winning the Super Bowl are 250-1.
Their odds of the Panthers winning it are 10-1. Theyre fifth. (Next is San Francisco at 14-1, then Kansas City and Cincinnati at 22-1.)
Good teams have bad days, and most of the time they win anyway. Thats why theyre good. Thats what the Panthers did Sunday.
The victory against the Miami was as impressive in its way as the glamour victories against the 49ers and Patriots were in theirs.
This was not a marquee matchup. This was a game, after the Panthers had been discovered by a national audience, against an opponent with decent talent but in an inability to win close games (see Panthers 2010, 2011 and the first five weeks of 2012).
Carolina got knocked around a little in the opening half and played lethargically.
The only way the Panthers could win was if, when they had to be good, they were. So they were.
Rivera had been 2-14 in games decided by a seven points or fewer. Now hes 5-14.
Three straight weeks Carolinas offense has had game-winning drives and the Carolina defense and it doesnt get enough credit for this has had game-winning stops.
Its almost as if, before the game, Rivera tells his team:
Were going to win the game in the last minute, theres going to be a controversial penalty against an opposing tight end or what could have been a game-winning touchdown catch by an opposing receiver, Luke Kuechly will not be called for a penalty in the end zone no matter what he does and, oh yeah, as long as I run the show were never going to punt again.
It works. It works when the Panthers are on and it works when theyre not.
Its a good speech. And it has been a compelling season.
Tom Sorensen: 704-358-5119; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tomsorensen