Belief in the System

How many times have you seen teams do the impossible when the odds were stacked against them? It may be that two out of three quarterbacks are out with injury, only to have the third stringer step up to the plate and lead their team to victory (ala Philadelphia Eagles) or it may be one out away from losing the World Series and a first baseman flubs an easy grounder to give your team a chance to go on and win a decisive game six (NY Mets).

Or it could be that two of your team's most important players go down in week one of the season, leaving you with doubts about the abilities of the backups to perform behind a make shift offensive line.

The one thing that each of these teams had in common was the burning desire to achieve and the 100% belief in the system they played for. On Sunday, the Carolina Panthers came into a hostile environment down two key players to face an opponent that had a 13 game home win streak, an explosive offense and a point to prove after being beat the week before. On paper, the Panthers didn't match up well. They were starting a backup running back, who although had shown flashes of greatness during last year's playoff run, had struggled this pre-season with fumbling the ball. The Panthers were also starting a rookie at wide receiver, replacing the dynamic Steve Smith, who was lost for at least 10 weeks with a broken leg. Although Keary Colbert had an outstanding pre-season, this was to be his true test.

Not only was this a test for both young players but also a test for a make shift offensive line that had lost three of their five starters to retirement and free agency. Last week, the line couldn't hold back Green Bay's defense and the Panthers only produced 65 rushing yards and caused Jake Delhomme to be sacked three times. Many of the national media had already written the Panthers off as the underdog and the Vegas line going into the game was 6.5. But as much as the national media and many others had written off the Panthers, they had forgotten two things. The first was that the Panthers were use to playing the underdog role and the second was that they didn't understand the confidence the players had in the system.

The system is simple really. Develop the run game, set up the pass play, wear down your opponent and finish them off late into the game. This system has taken regular players, unknown to most in the national spotlight, and developed them into players that play above their known levels. How else can you explain the ability of an offensive line that had been switched around several timws during the preu-season to block well enough to allow Deshaun Foster to run for 170 yards? How else can you explain how a rookie can make important catches, including one for a touchdown? How else can a team that had been embarassed a week before on national television, come back and shut down the league's top scoring running back? They believed in their coach, the system and each other. Proof of that is in what QB Jake Delhomme said at the end of the game on Sunday. "We knew that we really laid an egg on Monday night but we just believed in the system that we have. Sure we wished that Stephen and Smitty were here, but I can't say enough about how much Deshaun and Keary stepped up today and made big plays when they had to."

The Panthers have a bye week this coming week. It gives them a chance to heal up and prepare for the next game against the Falcons. More importantly, it allows the Panthers the chance to work together with some of the newer players to strengthen the that has taken an "average" team and turned them into sure-fire winners.

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