The 1972 Miami Dolphins can rest easy, but the rest of the NFL will have to deal with an even more determined Cam Newton after the Carolina Panthers' 20-13 defeat Sunday to the Atlanta Falcons, which dropped their record to 14-1.
In his postgame press conference, Newton was blunt in his assessment of his and his team's overall performance.
"We got our ass kicked today, and to a lot of degree, we deserved it, especially the type of way we played," he said, per NFL.com's Marc Sessler. "Offensively, defensively and special teams. And I'm talking with the mirror in front of my face. There were some plays that we left out there, we knew it."
Newton added that the Panthers will have a renewed focus after the loss:
Newton's comments were similar to those of his teammates, per Max Henson of Panthers.com:
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman argued Carolina might be better off having suffered a loss:
That's because this Panthers team needs a break. It needs time to regroup, and now that the pursuit of an unbeaten season is over, head coach Ron Rivera can start resting everyone. ... I saw a Panthers team that at times looked half asleep. It's because they are. When I interviewed Dolphins players on the 1972 team for a book on their undefeated season, one of the things they all said was how draining it was. It was inspirational and historic, but it was brutal, and they played just 14 regular-season games.
Going unbeaten would've secured the Panthers a special place in NFL history, but the pursuit of history comes at a cost. As Freeman noted, the 1972 Dolphins played fewer games than present-day teams, and the physical demand of football in the 1970s was less than it is today, with players having become bigger, stronger and faster.
The Panthers will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to close out the regular season, and even if head coach Ron Rivera rests some of his stars for the majority of the game, Carolina should be able to pull out the victory. If the NFC South champions win 15 games, they'll become just the fifth team ever to do so, leaving them in elite company.
And should the Panthers go on to win the Super Bowl, Sunday's loss will be forgotten.