How desperate were the Carolina Panthers for a victory Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks? Extremely, If head coach Ron Rivera’s early aggression said anything.
After forcing a Seattle three-and-out on its opening drive, Carolina marched to the Seahawks’ 13 in just six plays. Facing fourth-and-2 from the 5, Rivera went for it — but quarterback Cam Newton’s run came up short.
Rivera challenged the spot but lost the challenge, a timeout and the ball all in one fell swoop.
That move set the tone for the remainder of Sunday’s contest as the Panthers suffered a 30-27 loss, their third straight.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Carolina racked up a season-high 475 yards of offense, trailing for only five minutes after spending its previous two weeks playing from behind. That is, of course, until Sebastian Janikowski’s 31-yard field goal split the uprights as time expired.
Graham Gano missed a go-ahead 52-yard field goal on the Panthers’ final drive, giving Seattle the ball back at its 42. Carolina came within one play of getting its offense back onto the field. But a 43-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett on third-and-5 all but sealed the Seahawks’ victory.
On Nov. 4, the Panthers were 6-2 , in the hunt for the NFC South title and in the driver’s seat in the NFC wild-card race. Just three weeks later, they find themselves on the outside looking in with three games remaining against the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. What once seemed like a sure thing sow becomes a serious question as Carolina no longer controls its postseason destiny.
The Panthers play at Tampa Bay and Cleveland in consecutive weeks before facing the Saints and Falcons to close out their home schedule. If they can’t win those two road games, you might need to break out your dictionary — describing how you feel may take some creativity.
Three who mattered
Cam Newton: Lost in the stink of the Panthers’ three-game losing streak is how well Newton has played recently. QB1 completed his first 14 passes of the game en route to a 24-of-29, 255-yard, two-touchdown performance.
Christian McCaffrey: The second-year running back continues to see the field at an astronomical rate, and touched the ball 27 times for a combined 229 yards, passing the century mark in both rushing and receiving yards.
Russell Wilson: He threw for 339 yards and two scores Sunday, including a clutch 43-yard dime to Tyler Lockett to set up the game-winning field goal.
▪ Wide receiver Devin Funchess did not play, which wasn’t surprising considering he didn’t practice during the week with an undisclosed back injury. Torrey Smith returned from a knee injury after missing the Panthers’ past four games.
▪ The Panthers averaged a whopping 8.1 yards per play in the first half but only managed 13 points.
▪ Rookie cornerback Donte Jackson left the game with a quad injury after the first play of the game and did not return.
▪ The Panthers became the 10th team since the merger in 1970 to average at least 8 yards per play, rack up at least 475 yards and score 27 or fewer points.
▪ Carolina allowed a pair of 100-yard receivers (Tyler Lockett, David Moore) for the first time since allowing New York Jets receivers Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse to do so on Nov. 26, 2017.
▪ Curtis Samuel played a majority of the first half but didn’t touch the ball until midway through the second quarter. However, his first two touches resulted in a 25-yard run on a reverse, and a 7-yard touchdown reception two plays later.
▪ McCaffrey’s 48 touches over his past two games marks his second-highest two-game total of the 2018 season.
▪ His missed field goal Sunday was Gano’s first at Bank of America Stadium this season.
They said it
▪ “We need one win. Let’s just start with one win.” — Cam Newton on looking ahead to favorable games on the schedule.
▪ “(Expletive) was frustrating. It’s frustrating.” — Donte Jackson on how it felt being sidelined with a quad injury.
▪ “6-5 is not great. You’re 6-2 and now you’re 6-5. I don’t know if that’s how anyone saw it going.” — Greg Olsen on the team’s concerns.
“It hurt. Everybody was hurt. We put ourselves in position to win the game and to fall short, it definitely hurt.” — Captain Munnerlyn on the mood in the locker room after the game.