The Panthers snatched another defeat from victory’s jaws Sunday, blowing a 21-10 lead in the final six minutes and losing, 27-21, in overtime to Tampa Bay before a disconsolate home crowd. Here's my column, focusing on the uncanny ability of the Panthers to lose close games.
In a game with wild swings, Tampa Bay scored the game’s first 10 points, Carolina scored the next 21 and then the Bucs scored the final 17 – including a 15-yard pass from Josh Freeman to Dallas Clark on the first possession of overtime. Clark beat Carolina linebacker James Anderson on the play. Because the Bucs scored a TD, Carolina didn’t get a chance to possess the ball in OT, so the Panther defense ended up allowing 80-yard touchdown drives on the game’s final two possessions. In the postgame, quarterback Cam Newton called the Panthers' inability to finish games out "the story of our lives." Tight end Greg Olsen said that of all the close losses this year that this one "takes the cake." Defensive end Charles Johnson tweeted out that he was "embarrassed" by the loss. "Some people study and work harder than others and they get expose [sic]" read part of Johnson's tweet.
Carolina was seemingly in control late, when Cam Newton’s 29-yard pass to Brandon LaFell pushed the Panthers to a 21-10 lead with six minutes to go. The Bucs got a field goal to slice the lead to 21-13 and then – after the Panthers bled the clock awhile – Tampa Bay started its final drive with 62 seconds to go, zero timeouts and 80 yards to go.
But the Bucs went all the way down the field – helped by a 15-yard penalty on linebacker Thomas Davis for hitting a defenseless receiver in the head. Vincent Jackson burned the Panthers badly late, scoring on both a 24-yard touchdown and then on the ensuing two-point conversion.
The Panthers dropped to 2-8 on the season after leading for most of the game, and you have to think a loss like this will come back to haunt a lot of people at Bank of America Stadium at season’s end. Tampa Bay improved to 6-4.