Certain games arrive at certain times on the NFL schedule that get branded "statement games." Sunday night's was one.
A battle for first place in the NFC South.
The Panthers trying to make a proclamation that they are the new lead dogs of the division.
The Saints trying to make an affirmation of their supremacy in the division and that for the Panthers, who usually follow them, the view from behind never changes and will not.
Cam Newton needed to win to verify his ascendancy to the elite ranks of NFL quarterbacks. But Sunday night he was neither superstar nor superman. Phone booths to change in are in increasingly short supply. And so is the notion he is either superstar or superman when...with Sunday night's loss...he is now 5 and 15 against winning teams.
Afterward he would say of the Saints: "They were better than us today. Are they better than us? no!"
We will see.
"Riverboat Ron" Rivera played his cards unusually close to the vest. He faced fourth and 11 from the Saints 27 and fourth and goal from the Saints 6 and went for it neither time. With the Saints showing a pass rush that would see them sack Cam Newton five times, Rivera was wary the Saints would "fold him" and chose to "hold 'em" instead, choosing to kick a pair of first quarter field goals.
Afterward he would say of the Saints: "We'll see how things go when they come to Carolina."
Yes, we will see...in just two weeks.
But if the Saints take care of business at St. Louis and home against Tampa Bay on either side of that rematch, it probably won't matter what the outcome of that game is to either team's playoff position.
The one that really, really mattered was last night.
And while some predicted and many of us feared that the Saints' recent failure and the Panthers' recent success would continue last night, it didn't.
And the Who Dats can hum The Who's song this Monday:
"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
We won't get fooled again."
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