Carolina a mirror image of Pats in ’02

Two years ago, everyone was certain that the St. Louis Rams were going to win the Super Bowl.

The Rams finished the season 14-2 and had just won the big game two years earlier. On top of that, they were playing the New England Patriots, a team that should’ve considered themselves lucky to be playing for a championship.

Fast forward to this year’s contest and it looks like a mirror image. This time it is New England coming in with the impressive record and an NFL championship under their belt. And yet again, it will be the underdogs – the Carolina Panthers – that walk away with the rings and the trip to Disney World.

Carolina comes into the game with one glaring advantage–a sound running attack. This is almost a necessity for a team looking to win a Super Bowl.

With Stephen Davis running over defenses and DeShaun Foster running around them, Carolina will be able to control the clock.

And with New England’s defensive leader, Tedy Bruschi, questionable for the game, the Panthers should be able to expose this advantage even more.

The next weapon Carolina will bring to the game is a receiving corps with mental toughness, something most wide outs don’t have when they are confronted by Patriots’ defensive backs Ty Law and Rodney Harrison. Veteran wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad has been known to put blocks on defensive ends and Steve Smith’s toughness speaks for itself, and he is looking forward to the physical play. “No, I like it,” he said. “[Ty Law] can play however he wants. You can be as physical as you want, but you still have to play the game.”

Being as physical as possible is the name of the game for the Panthers’ defense, which begins and ends with their line. Brentson Buckner, Kris Jenkins, Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker have gotten a lot of credit for their team’s success and with good reason.

“There’s no question that we have a talented front four,” Panthers head coach John Fox said. “It”s hard to say which group is the best in the league. I wouldn’t trade my group, and they’ll get better as time goes on.”

The four have combined for 24 sacks this season and should have no problem shutting down a weak New England Running game that only managed to pick up 1,280 yards and three touchdowns between their two top runners. This should allow Carolina to focus on putting some hurt on quarterback Tom Brady. The theme for this Super Bowl looks to be two teams in a defensive struggle which is something the Panthers entire season has been. Carolina has played thirteen games this season that have been decided by less than a touchdown and have won ten of them. This is clearly a number that shows how seasoned this young team is.

After humiliating Dallas, frustrating St. Louis, and flat out dominating Philadelphia, this appears to be a team of destiny – the same destiny New England had two years ago. Final Score: 14-13 Carolina