The Carolina Panthers played another very ugly game at home Sunday, losing 16-12 to Seattle to drop to 1-4 on what is rapidly becoming another lost season.
Much like the season opener against Tampa Bay, the Panthers’ offense ultimately let the team down this time. Carolina’s defense not only kept the game close but also scored the Panthers’ only touchdown, on a 33-yard interception return by Captain Munnerlyn that briefly put Carolina ahead, 10-6.
But the Panthers’ offense was horrible. It couldn’t run the ball and DeAngelo Williams lost a key fumble that eventually led to Seattle’s only TD. And Cam Newton threw the ball more poorly than I’ve ever seen him throw it, generating more boos at Bank of America Stadium than he ever has before. Newton placed the blame squarely on himself after the game -- here's my column about his performance.
Entering the fourth quarter, Newton was 5-for-20 for 55 yards. It was stunningly bad, and Newton fell on the sword after the game, saying he just wasn't playing well enough to win. The Seahawks’ pass rush was great, yes, and Newton had several dropped balls, but still – five completions in three quarters?!
Trailing 16-10, the Panthers got untracked for one last drive and, after several straight completions, had a first-and-goal at the 6 and a fourth-and-goal at the 1.
But on that fourth-and-goal play, Carolina took out all of its wide receivers and then tried to trick Seattle with a play-action pass (Newton also had the option to run). Tight end Greg Olsen was double-covered and Newton tried to guide the ball to his secondary target, Ben Hartsock, who was open for a moment -- "wide open," coach Ron Rivera would say later -- but Newton grounded the ball five yards short.
"The run-pass option worked in our favor," Rivera said. "We had a guy wide open. And unfortunately we just didn’t get it done."
Carolina got one last shot, starting its final drive with 54 seconds left and no timeouts from its own 31 after Seattle took an intentional safety in its own end zone to make the score 16-12 instead of 16-10. The Panthers still would need to score a TD either way.
But 69 yards in 54 seconds proved far too tall of a task, as Newton was sacked and fumbled on the second play and Seattle recovered and ran out the clock. Carolina would end up being outgained 310-190 in this game, and only because of the defense was the game even close. "Our defense needs to know that if they're going to play like that, we're going to win," said offensive tackle Jordan Gross. Instead this game was much like the Tampa Bay game, when the defense also played decently, allowed 16 points and then saw the once-fearsome Panther offense crumble when the team needed points the most. It was nasty, all in all, and the Panthers now have almost two weeks to think about it -- they don't play again until Oct.21st at home against Dallas (a team Seattle beat by 20).