Next on my list of top moments that defined the Carolina Panthers in 2014 is the one – actually two – that made history.
And not in a good way for Carolina.
No. 7: Block party
Date and place: Nov. 30, TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis.
The moment: There were two moments. With seven minutes left in the first quarter, Minnesota’s Adam Thielen broke free through the middle, blocked Brad Nortman’s punt and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. With 9:35 left in the second quarter, Jasper Brinkley charged up the middle to block another Nortman punt that Everson Griffen recovered and returned 43 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time a team scored on two blocked punts in an NFL game since Sept. 30, 1990. It was the first time in 453 games – since 1986, the longest active streak in the league – that the Vikings returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. The result was a 31-13 Minnesota victory.
Why it was so significant: This symbolized more than anything the breakdowns, especially on special teams, that haunted the Panthers for three-fourths of the season. These mistakes came after a bye week in which coach Ron Rivera had said Carolina needed to win its final five games to make the playoffs – although it turned out four wins was good enough. The result extended the Panthers' losing streak to six games and non-winning streak to seven. It was the low point of the season, and was summed up best by tight end Greg Olsen. "There's really no other way to put it,’’ he said. “Every adjective you can come up with, it's that. Right now, we're not very good."