It was deja boo all over again Sunday. For the third straight year, Carolina lost a low-scoring home heartbreaker to Seattle.
This time the final score was 13-9, following 16-12 in 2012 and 12-7 in 2013. In every case, the Panthers had their chances, and in every case, they ultimately failed to close the deal as Russell Wilson and the Seahawks simply made more plays at the end. The picture above shows Kelvin Benjamin's drop of a TD pass -- Carolina's best chance to dent the end zone Sunday.
On Sunday, Carolina played defense like it was 2013 for most of the afternoon. A team that averaged 27.9 points per game allowed the first seven weeks had given up only two field goals when Wilson got the ball back with just under five minutes left and trailing, 9-6, after Graham Gano's third field goal.
But then came a nine-play, 80-yard march ending with the game's only touchdown -- Wilson's 23-yard strike to tight end Luke Willson with 0:47 to go. The Wilson-Willson tandem beat rookie safety Tre Boston on the play. Wilson has thrown a second-half TD pass in all three games that has proven to be the game-winner.
Carolina needed a miracle touchdown then, but after not scoring one all day, they weren't going to go 80 yards in the final 42 seconds. The Panthers went nowhere, and Seattle left Charlotte once again with a victory. The Panthers' offense under Newton has now scored only one touchdown in 12 quarters against Seattle over the past three years. "I think we left 21 out there," offensive tackle Byron Bell said, referring to Carolina's three trips inside the red zone without a single touchdown.
To be fair, Carolina played a whole lot better this week than the Panthers did in that beatdown they took against Green Bay last week. And the Panthers (3-4-1) are still in front in the NFC South, with Atlanta losing again Sunday and New Orleans yet to play.
But that's little consolation Sunday after a lot of good football goes to waste. Carolina played well for a lot of the game, but Newton had two really bad turnovers, the defense had a bad letdown in the final five minutes -- and the Panthers left the field to a chorus of boos after failing to complete a single pass on their final series, including an ill-fated screen pass on 4th-and-25.
"I have to be better, and I will," Newton said. He better be -- New Orleans is in town Thursday, and the Panthers are now 1-4-1 over their last six games.