It Is Done

<P>The Panthers' worst season came to a merciful end as New England clinched the AFC East title with a 38-6 whipping of the Panthers. The Panthers become the first NFL team to lose 15 straight games in one season, and coach George Seifert has likely coached his final game at Carolina. It's expected he'll be excused on Monday.

The Panthers lost this one by being scored on from everywhere. The Patriots scored twice on interceptions returned for touchdowns, once on a punt return for a touchdown, once on a pass and once on the ground. If 38-6 doesn't sound bad enough, throw this in: New England had two first half touchdowns called back on holding calls and only got a field goal back.

The only bright spot for Carolina was the running game. Richard Huntley finally contributed what many expected of him all year, by gaining a career-high 168 yards. It's only the second time this season that the Panthers had a back gain more than 100 yards...Tshimanga Biakabutuka picked up 121 at Washington in October before seeing his season end with a broken leg.

Even though the scoreboard said that the Panthers were still in the game in the third quarter trailling only 10-3, there had been nothing seen on the field to indicate that Carolina would eventually win this one to break their long losing skid. It's the second straight week they've been blown out.

Following the game, the Charlotte Observer was reporting the expected departure of George Seifert. He came to Carolina three years ago, looking to add to his resume as the winningest coach in NFL history. Instead, he'll leave with critics harping what they had all along...that he only won Super Bowls in San Francisco because he inherited a team run by a successful organization.

Seifert made it clear in his post-game press conference that he will not resign and that he intends to coach the Panthers again next year. But, the poor performances of the last two weeks appear to have left team owner Jerry Richardson with no other choice than to make a change.

Richardson has been silent on the issue, but it is well known that he has been hesitant to do anything because of his prior reputation of being impatient. He and Seifert agreed prior to this year to a youth movement, acknowledging that they were not nearly as close to returning to the NFC title game as they thought they'd been. A 15-game losing skid and continuous questioning of strategy and play-calling has necessitated the change. Seifert has two more years left on his contract that will pay him in the neighborhood of $5 million. Richardson knows that if Seifert were to return, it would be hard to generate excitement among the fans who have stayed away in droves the last couple of weeks. The finale drew just over 21,000 in cold and rainy conditions.


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