As the Panthers prepared to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, this piece began as homage to a venerable Tampa sportswriter, Tom McEwen, read often during the years while gaining my own muscles as a writer there in the early ‘80s. McEwen always began columns discussing his breakfast fare, so:

Sitting down to an awesome 3-egg omelet– filled with half a thigh of leftover grilled chicken, chopped up with a decent amount of firm Ruskin tomato for color, handful of baby spinach, plentiful shredded Parmesan, and laced with tabasco (as usual) on a less-rainy-than-predicted Sunday– a second cup of post-taking Mom to church java in hand felt righteous.

Two pieces of rye toast with honey and a perfectly ripened, juicy but not drippy, organic pear and the sports page, all was well with the immediate world around me.

Having been a sportswriter for a very long time, it’s still amazing thatbaseball begins its playoffs today with a pair of wild-card games, after which there will be two more rounds (best of 5, then best of 7 games) BEFORE the World Series, scheduled to begin October 27th. FYI to all, the NHL begins its 80-game, now-till-June season tomorrow.

About the Football game: Well, the Panthersare unbeaten, 4-0 and atop the NFC South with 4-0 Atlanta Falcons. Unfortunately for Tampa, even having #1 overall selection in the 2015 draft– rookie Jameis Winston, like the Panthers Cam Newton, winner of a Heisman Trophy and national championship– on their side probably won’t raise the now 1-3 Bucs from the depths. Remembering the opportunity to interview a young, strong-armed black QB about his golf game during early Tampa sports writing comes naturally;Doug Williamswas frequently running more for his continued health than for positive yardage like Newton, Tampa’s O-line being about on a par with its current one.

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Winston threwfour interceptions, balanced somewhat by a two TD, 26-of-43 for 287 yard effort, his best overall production so far, but his first INT became Panther cornerback Josh Norman’s second pick-six of the year, and Norman grabbed his fourth INT of the year a bit later. Winston might have had a worse statistical day, but a running back was tagged with the Bucs fumbling a handoff. While Winston will still have a job this Sunday, and Norman, Defensive Player of the Month for September,continues to make a strong case for a major improvement in his contract (with Panthers or elsewhere) for next year, Tampa’s kicker missed three more FG attempts and an extra point, and it’s doubtful his iffy production will be accepted much longer.

Cam Newton was average on the stat sheet, 11-22 for 124 yards, but with a pair of TD passes to Ted Ginn, Jr., the first such game of Ginn’s 8-year career, and Ed Dickson grabbed Jon Stewart’s fumble mid-air and turned it into a 57-yard touchdown rumble as part of the 37-23 win. Cam rushed for 51 yards–and keeping the sticks moving like he did during his sparkling first year is an offensive positive, especially after a $103 million contract extension this off-season, and if not ‘feared’, they have a level of respect due two-time defending (even if last year was only 7-8-1) division winners.

Star linebacker Luke Kuechly, is still out since the opener against Jacksonville (concussion protocols), but Panthers now have an off week before facing Seattle.4-time Pro Bowler Jared Allen was added to a front four that lost Charles Johnson for eight weeks two weeks ago, and he brings major experience (12 years, 134 sacks) at a bargain price. AJ Klein’s steady play replacing Kuechly, and the continued excellence of Thomas Davis’, who had the final INT on Winston with 6:56 to go, bodes well for the defense.

With a whiff of playoff fever already in the air, the Panthers need to overcome three straight played-tough-but-lost games against the Seahawks. Beyond two games in December games against Atlanta, you can’t get back to any Super Bowls without expecting to see the ‘Hawks.

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