One kid’s view: Pressure on Peyton key to Panthers’ victory
By Sheryl McAlister, a writer based in South Carolina
Boyce couldn’t have scripted it any better – this football season. His beloved Clemson Tigers nearly won it all, and his Carolina Panthers are on the way to the big dance. He called it early on when he said we should sell the pre-season tickets and save our money for the playoff tickets. A safe bet either way really. The Panthers hadn’t hosted that many playoff games in their franchise history.
Fast forward through a season that was flat out fun to watch, and here we are. The Panthers are the NFC champs on their way to a second Super Bowl.
With only a few minutes left on the clock during Sunday’s NFC Championship game, the Carolina Panthers and the fans who love them started singing the Neil Diamond favorite Sweet Caroline. “Good times never seemed so good…”
Boyce was born in the spring of 2004, the last year the Panthers went to the Super Bowl. Jake Delhomme was the quarterback, and they lost to the Patriots and Tom Brady. This time around, the Panthers hit the mother lode with franchise quarterback Cam Newton and defensive leader Luke Kuechly – two young guys who are having the time of their lives. And they’ve brought the rest of us along for the ride.
This time around, football’s past meets football’s future when Denver’s Peyton Manning and Carolina’s Newton face off in Super Bowl 50, February 7, 2016, in Northern California.
Boyce is my nephew, a good athlete, smart kid and a real student of the game. Not short on opinions, he is a Cam fan, thinks wide receiver Devin Funchess should get more passes, that the defense will have to keep its focus, and that it’s probably a good thing the Panthers aren’t headed into this game undefeated.
He’s a serious sportsman with a heart. He struggles with the fact that, at 11, he might be getting a little too old to wait for a Cam Newton touchdown ball. “I mean, how do you compete with a 2-year-old?” he asked recently. He is no fan of players who abuse their wives or girlfriends. “They shouldn’t be allowed to play.” And he wears breast cancer ribbons on his helmet “for my aunt.” (My sister is a survivor.)
Mostly, he’s just a kid having a great time. So I decided to ask him a few questions. He responded by saying (deadpan) “This is my first blog interview.”
Me: Boyce, what have you thought about this Panther season? An incredible year, huh?
Boyce: Uh, I thought it was very fun watching the Panthers do so good. At first, I thought I wasn’t sure because Kelvin Benjamin was out, and we lost some players. Stuff like that. But after watching, I thought we’d do good. Now we’re in the Super Bowl.
Me: You’re a real sports fan. And you thought we’d win this game against the Cardinals?
Boyce: Yes. In the first grade I didn’t know that much about sports, but I know more now because I took it seriously.
Me: So what’s your prediction for the Super Bowl?
Boyce: Well, if we put pressure on Peyton Manning, I think we can do it. Now, Cam will have to play good like he’s been doing all year. But our defense has got to be tough on Peyton.
Me: If the Panthers have a weakness, where is it?
Boyce: If they have one, it’s in the defense. Maybe the cornerbacks. Because when the Panthers have a good bit of a lead, they sometimes ease up and let others catch up to them. I think they need to be more serious when they’re up and stay aggressive.
Me: You’re a big Funchess fan. You’ve said you wish he’d get the ball more.
Boyce: Yes, I do. Well, he’s 6-5, and he’s a rookie. And I truly think they should pass it to him more. Every time they throw it to him, it’s a catch or a touchdown.
Me: Who are some of your favorite Carolina Panthers?
Boyce: Well, Cam, of course. Ted Ginn, Tolbert, Stewart, Luuuuuuke and Norman.
Me: You’re also a big Clemson fan. So it’s been a great football year for you.
Boyce: Yes ma’am. I really thought Clemson would win the championship. Now the Carolina Panthers have to win. I can’t go empty handed.
Me: Are you glad Peyton Manning beat Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game?
Boyce: Yes, I do not like the Patriots. I like Gronkowski and Edelman. But not Tom Brady. I am not a Patriots fan.
Me: You gotta love Peyton though, right? I mean, he’s 39. Broken lots of bones. This might be his last game, ever.
Boyce: Yeah, I like Peyton. He’s alright.
Me: Do you think it will be his last game?
Boyce: Yes, I do think so. If they win, for sure. If they lose, maybe he comes back. I just don’t know.
Me: What do you think about Coach Ron Rivera?
Boyce: Ron Rivera’s gonna have to do some good coaching. I don’t think he’s been to the Super Bowl a lot before. [Actually, Rivera has been to the Super Bowl as a player and as a defensive coordinator. Not as a head coach.] There could be some tricks. See; take the Clemson-Alabama game, for example. Dabo was new to the championship, and Nick Saban was used to playing the championship games, since Alabama has always been one of the better teams. So coaching will be a difference for sure.
Me: Pretty cool to be a part of the NFC Championship celebration, huh?
Boyce: Oh, yes. The Panthers deserved to win. Cam’s doing good. They played like they should be in the Super Bowl. I hated they had the one loss. And I hate it was to the Falcons. But it may actually have helped. There’s a lot of pressure to stay undefeated.
Me: So what’s your prediction?
Boyce: If they both start off playing good defense and it’s a low score — Panthers 31-28. If it’s a high-scoring game, Panthers 52-45. Panthers – either way.
Good times never seemed so good.
Copyright © 2016 Sheryl McAlister