Panthers in OT

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 29, 2004

Two years ago, the Carolina Panthers were 1-15 and the New England Patriots were a surprise Super Bowl Championship team with a last-second field goal to defeat the favored St. Louis Rams.

This year, they are both in the Super Bowl and the underdog will win again.

You heard it here first! The Carolina Panthers will win Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium in Houston this Sunday. It will be a close game, but the Panthers will prevail - eventually.

I say eventually because I predict the Panthers will win in overtime. It will be the first Super Bowl to ever go into overtime.

Now that I've made my prediction I am sure many people think I am crazy - even those who don't know me. Let me remind you, however, that I was a perfect 2-0 on my predictions for the conference championship games.

Many of you probably want to know how in the world the Panthers will win against a veteran and extremely well-coached New England Patriots team that won a Super Bowl just a few years ago.

Well, the reason Carolina will win is because they are hungry just like the Patriots were when they went to play the St. Louis Rams. The Pats were heavy underdogs and shocked everyone with a win.

The game will be very close because both teams have tremendous defenses. Both the Panthers and Patriots have found ways to win the last two weeks. The game will go into overtime because that is the only fitting way for the season to end after so many exciting overtime games already having been played this season.

This could be the most exciting Super Bowl in history.

Now, it will be a low-scoring game because both teams have tremendous defenses.

The Panthers will find a way to win because of their coach and his stubbornness to stick with the run. The Panthers will be tempted to try something tricky or go deep a little more often than usual, but they need not fret about making changes.

New England defensive lineman Ted Washington is as big as a house and will continue to plug up the middle of the line of scrimmage when the Panthers' Stephen Davis attempts to run between the tackles. Washington will be effective limiting the Panthers' inside running attack, but he will get tired and the Panthers will grind out yards up the middle.

Carolina running back DeShaun Foster

may be an even more important weapon for the Panthers' offense in the Super Bowl because of his speed to the outside. Foster should have a big day, especially if he breaks a long run against one of the Patriots blitzes, and could even be named Most Valuable Player.

Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad will continue to make plays in the passing game for the Panthers. They will be used more as possession receivers by running mostly short routes with an opportunity to turn a short pass into a big gain with their speed.

The Patriots also have a smart coaching staff and a talented team. The rushing game is a little overshadowed by quarterback Tom Brady, but Antowain Smith will have a good day blocking and running the ball.

The Pats receivers will carry the largest burden facing a defensive secondary that not only covers pass catchers but takes it a step farther and harasses them with a physical presence.

The receivers also must get open in a hurry because the no-name Carolina Panthers defensive line is awesome. Brady will not have a lot of time to throw the ball and he is not the most agile quarterback in the league.

The Patriots also have a great secondary and one of the best in Ty Law. So, do not expect either quarterback to have big numbers throwing the ball, especially deep.

Special teams and turnovers will play a big part in the game and could be the deciding factor, but that is the case for every football game ever played.

So, look for the Panthers to somehow prevent Adam Vinatieri from kicking a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation and then win it in overtime.

The winning touchdown will come from DeShaun Foster, but it may or may not be on a running play and it most likely will not come on the Panthers' first offensive possessive of the overtime.

- John Wallace is the sports

editor of, and columnist for,

The Andalusia Star-News.