— by Patrick Magoon (patrickmagoon.com) of WIZS
The Carolina Panthers are a great football team until they get in their own way – a growing concern for the franchise. Despite losing to the Seahawks in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, the Panthers’ remain in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs. Here are five takeaways from Carolina’s 27-30 week 12 loss to Seattle.
Another game decided in the fourth quarter
Carolina has struggled to put games away this season. They start sloppy and then pick up the pace in the second quarter. Third quarter comes around and they fail to make adjustments, which then calls for a heroic performance from Cam Newton and his offense in the fourth quarter to pull out a win. The Panthers’ score a league-worst 1.3 points in the third quarter, but rank second overall in points scored in the fourth quarter (10).
A series of missed opportunities hindered success in the red zone
Several points were left on the field after the Panthers’ experienced a series of unpropitious events through different parts of today’s game. It started early on in the first quarter when head coach Ron “Riverboat” Rivera chose to keep the offense on the field on fourth down to try and keep the drive alive in the red zone. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner called for a quarterback run. Newton held the ball close, tucking his head behind his offensive line. His long legs churned as he fought for the extra yards. The initial ruling on the field was turnover on downs. Players, coaches and fans immediately turned to the big screen to watch replay from a camera that showed what looked like a successful first down run. Head coach Ron Rivera pondered the idea of challenging the ruling on the field for a few minutes before finally throwing the red flag. After further review, the decision on the field was upheld, and a potential scoring drive was cut short.
About five minutes later, Carolina’s offense unit reaches the red zone again, after back-to-back big gains from wide receivers Jarius Wright and D.J. Moore. The Panthers’ may have left that drive with three points, but they were in an excellent position to potentially cap off their exciting trip down the field with a touchdown if Turner had let Newton throw a pass into the end zone. Turner tried forcing McCaffrey into the end zone, which didn’t work. McCaffrey carried the ball three times in a row when Carolina was within 12 yards of the goal line and got nowhere.
The missed opportunities didn’t stop there. The Panthers’ had a chance to seal the win with a field goal from kicker Graham Gano. At the end of the fourth quarter, both teams had 27. Gano needed to make a 51-yard field goal. In short, he missed the mark by a few inches. After the game, Gano said he thought he hit the ball well.
An usual amount of fumbles
The final score of today’s game could have been very different had the Panthers’ not been able to recover their fumbles. Carolina fumbled a season-high five times. McCaffrey, the player responsible for three of those fumbles, needs to a better job of holding onto the ball moving forward.
Curtis Samuel and Moore are the future of the franchise
The absence of wide receivers Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith paved the way for another solid outing for playmakers Moore and Samuel. With every week that passes, Newton strengthens the mental bond he shares with his receivers. Samuel, again, proved that he is a hot target in the red zone. He took his first carry of the game 25 yards to Seattle’s 14-yard line. Two plays later, he reached the end zone – a seven-yard reception. Moore caught eight passes for 91 yards. These two versatile receivers have shown that can make a big play from just about anywhere on the field. Their physicality and speed allow them to terrorize the secondary unit of opposing teams when they get the ball in open space.
Newton was nearly flawless
Another remarkable performance by Newton was lost in a loss. Newton hardly missed a beat, throwing for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His only mistake was a forced pass to tight end Chris Manhertz in the end zone, which was picked off by Bradley McDougald. He went 25/30 and finished today’s game with a QBR of 110.6.
Cornerbacks got outplayed
Donte Jackson’s early exit after an injury to his quad in the first quarter was a sign of bad things to come. Both cornerbacks Corn Elder (Jackson’s replacement) and James Bradberry were picked on throughout the game for giving up too much space in coverage and missing tackles. Some of the blame for the inconsistencies and miscommunication on defense does fall on Carolina’s defensive coordinator but tackling needed to be better – that is on the players.