Linebacker Ben Jacobs must have seen the look on veteran safety Mike Adams’ face following Carolina’s ugly 22-10 loss to Atlanta on Sunday night – something similar to that of a child who tastes horseradish for the first time – because he went right up to Adams as the latter prepared to face the media, and tapped him gently.

“You good? We’re good,” he said to Adams, the bubbly Jacobs coaxing a tired smile from the safety. “We’re in the playoffs.”

Adams nodded.

“We’re good.”

But he’d have every right to be furiously, hopping, spitting mad after Sunday’s game.

Not only did the Panthers, who finish the regular season at a respectable 11-5, lose a chance at winning the division (the Saints were edged by Tampa Bay in the final seconds of their matchup Sunday night), they also now have to head back to the hostile Superdome and play New Orleans in the wild-card game next Sunday.

Adams should be angry.

Because while the Panthers defense held the Falcons to a lone touchdown and five field goals, Carolina’s offense sputtered dismally; reminiscent even of that horrible, frigid implosion in Chicago in Week 7. Or the defensive stand against Buffalo in Week 2 – something easy to explain away, early in the year and not on the verge of a playoff run.