What you will see is an even better team next year. I just wish we had performed better in the game that counted. But looking at the big picture, a lot of good things got accomplished for this team this year.
The only surprise that we had in the game was that the surface was kind of slippery. It was difficult to get firm footing, particularly in the center of the field. It didn't affect the offense nearly as much as the defense because the offense already knows where it will be heading. The defense has to react to that. It wasn't like mud or anything sticking to our shoes, it was just slick out there for some reason.
The Panthers had some big plays. Things seemed to work very well for them offensively. Steve Smith had a great game and it was clear why he has the reputation as one of the best players in the NFL. If there's one guy who can change a game, it's him. And if you put Smith on a bad surface he can handle it. He knows where he's going. The defenders have to follow him and that can get difficult.
The fact that the Panthers got out ahead of us so early on wasn't that much of a disadvantage for us. If you're going to have something like that happen, you want it to happen to you early in the game when you still have time to turn things around, so I wouldn't say we were really upset by the score. The clock wasn't a factor and we had plenty of time to go ahead.
What was frustrating is that we played great defense all year and now when it really counted, one mistake by one person on any given play had huge repercussions. Things kept building as the game went on as Carolina made the plays and we didn't. You can make mistakes all day on offense and it usually isn't that big a deal. But one mistake on defense and you can be in trouble.
We all woke up excited and ready to go out and play this game. It did take us a little while to get up to their speed, probably because they had played a game last week. We were well rested, but a little off, a little bit sluggish, at the beginning.
By the second quarter we started picking it up. As the second half began, we picked up where we had left off and had a good start. We didn't really make any big adjustments at halftime, we didn't execute as we should have, we made mistakes.
I'm ready to take some time off, head to Florida and be with my daughter. I think we all need some time away from football. But we'll be back and ready to go in the spring. This is a good team and I think we'll enjoy good times next year.
Brendon Ayanbadejo shared his observations of life in the National Football League with Bear Report readers throughout the season.