The Carolina Panthers lost their fourth straight game Sunday afternoon to the Dallas Cowboys due to two primary factors – the inability of their offense to score more than 14 points and some bad calls late that hurt their comeback chances. Here's my column about the game, focusing mainly on Cam Newton's interesting comments postgame and the Panthers' offensive inefficiency.
Dallas won, 19-14, on a sunny afternoon in Charlotte. The Cowboys (3-3) beat the Panthers (1-5) by overcoming Carolina’s late 14-13 lead and also getting the benefit of three questionable calls in the final three minutes of play – all three of which I thought should have gone in the Panthers’ favor.
Many fans will focus specifically on the calls – especially the “should-have-been-pass-interference” call on Louis Murphy when Cam Newton was throwing a fourth-down pass with just over two minutes remaining and the Panthers down, 16-14.
Before that, Dallas got the benefit of a very questionable timeout, managing to stop the clock on the same fourth-down situation before 1) Carolina got the play off and made the necessary yardage and 2) Dallas was flagged for having too many men on the field. Then there was a very questionable horse-collar tackle on Panther linebacker James Anderson that extended the Cowboys’ last drive.
Yes, the Panthers were hurt badly by all three of those calls. Yes, they should have kept the ball on the fourth down. But let’s not forget they were also on their own side of the 50 at the time, with no guarantee that they would have driven for a winning field goal.
The bottom line is that the Panthers have to score more points. In six games, this is the fourth in which they have scored 14 or fewer points, and they’ve lost all four of those. Said frustrated Panther wide receiver Brandon LaFell: "The offense has to step up. Me included, all these guys -- we have to quit talking. Everybody's saying what they're going to do. We just need to make some plays, play ball and shut up."
Hear, hear. The Panthers have only scored two offensive touchdowns during the entire month of October. And while that statistic is somewhat skewed because of the bye week, it remains a fact that Carolina simply isn’t getting the ball into the end zone enough.
For all their offensive firepower, the Panthers have been a tease offensively all season.
Even in their final drive, in which they needed to go 80 yards in 53 seconds, they got it close to midfield but then sputtered out, with a last-second lateral play going nowhere and ultimately ending in a turnover.
It’s been that kind of season. The defense has slightly overachieved, I believe. But the offense has dramatically underachieved. Add that to a couple of bad officiating mistakes, and you've got another loss in a Panther season that has been full of them. "Someone said deja vu, and that's what it is," Panther offensive tackle Jordan Gross said afterward. "It's a different team, but the same scenario.... It's too up and down, that's what we've all been saying all season."