The dab is back. But although it looked for a while like it might be, the magic of 2015 is still missing from the Carolina Panthers.
A first-half that gave the Panthers a 17-point lead, including a touchdown run by quarterback Cam Newton that marked the return of his celebratory end zone dance, evaporated during the second half of a 20-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters stripped Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin of the ball with the score tied at 17 and less than a minute to play, setting up the fourth field goal of the day by Cairo Santos, who was good from 37 yards on the game’s final play.
“I took it from him,” Peters said. “It was simple.”
The Panthers, who had won two in a row, drop to 3-6, last in the NFC South. Atlanta and New Orleans lost Sunday, but Tampa Bay won. The Chiefs are 7-2.
A Graham Gano field goal on the opening drive was followed by Newton’s 4-yard touchdown run with 9 minutes, 5 seconds to play in the second quarter, resulting in a 10-point Panthers lead and the return of the dab.
A staple of the 2015 Super Bowl run, Newton said he had retired the dab, but desperate times call for desperate measures. “Any spark,” he said after the game.
For a while, it seemed to work.
A 38-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Devin Funchess 1:52 before halftime made it 17-0 before Santos kicked a field goal to close the deficit to 17-3 at the half.
Another Santos field goal and a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown by Kansas City safety Eric Berry, followed by a two-point conversion, made it 17-14 with 10:32 to play.
Santos’ 33-yard field goal tied the game at 17 with 4:25 to play.
The teams traded possessions before Peters’ play on Benjamin set up the winning field goal.
“It’s disappointing,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “We had every opportunity to win that football game today, and we didn’t take advantage of it.
“There’s no room for error now.”
Three who mattered
Cam Newton: Sure, he brought back the dab. He also completed 23 of 38 passes for 261 yards, a touchdown and a costly interception that was returned for a touchdown. He also ran a season-high 12 times for 54 yards, with a long of 28 and a touchdown.
Eric Berry: His 42-yard interception return for a Chiefs touchdown and the subsequent two-point conversion cut Carolina’s lead to 17-14 and made for a nervous final 10:32.
Marcus Peters: His strip of Benjamin was the play of the game.
▪ The Chiefs loaded the box in the first half, sometimes with nine players. An interesting strategy, daring the reigning NFL MVP to beat you with his arm.
▪ The Panthers put good pressure on Alex Smith without blitzing. Carolina only sacked Smith twice but made him uncomfortable in the pocket on multiple occasions. Smith finished 25 of 38 for 178 yards. He was intercepted once.
▪ Peters barely missed a pick-six in the first half when he jumped a route by Panthers tight end Ed Dickson. The failed effort, though, led to a 26-yard completion.
▪ Newton doesn’t appear concerned about the concussion protocol now. His touchdown run and a similar run for a first down in the third quarter were all power.
▪ Gano’s 42-yard field goal gave Carolina a 3-0 lead after the opening drive, highlighted by Newton’s 28-yard run on third and 1.
▪ Tre Boston’s interception of Smith on Kansas City’s first drive was his first of the season.
▪ Newton’s second-quarter touchdown run was the 47th of his career, moving him past DeAngelo Williams for the most in team history.
▪ Back-to-back third-quarter sacks of Newton, the Chiefs’ first two of the game, took Carolina out of field goal range and gave the ball back to Kansas City after a 20-play drive led to a punt. The Panthers, however, allowed only a 36-yard Santos field goal after an 11-play Kansas City drive, cutting the Carolina lead to 17-6.
▪ Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil (shoulder) was inactive for the second consecutive game.
▪ The Panthers have a quick turnaround with a Thursday game against the New Orleans Saints.
▪ A hamstring injury to punter Andy Lee left those duties to Gano.
They said it
“We have to find a way to muster more points.” – Cam Newton.
“No need to panic. I think we got a couple of key losses from some teams, and that’s our optimism.” – Newton.
“You can’t take back-to-back sacks. You just can’t. That’s the bottom line there.” – Rivera, on his team’s unsuccessful 20-play drive.