A season of ups and downs for starting left tackle Byron Bell came to an end Saturday night in Carolina’s 31-17 playoff loss to Seattle.
Bell didn’t go out on a high note. With Bell not blocking the correct way in the first half, Seattle was able to create a fumble. And in the fourth quarter with the Panthers needing to gain yardage in a comeback, Bell took a charge from Bruce Irvin that led to him getting to Cam Newton for a sack.
Bell started in 17 of Carolina’s 18 games this season, missing only one because of injury. He won the right to replace Jordan Gross at left tackle in training camp, but Bell has been consistently ranked near the bottom of tackles in the NFL.
With four minutes left in the first quarter, Jonathan Stewart and Newton didn’t get their handoff correct, resulting in a Newton fumble and a Seattle recovery when Michael Bennett blew up the play. But Bennett went unblocked and free to Stewart because Bell didn’t block inside.
Bell played well for the middle two quarters but was exposed late in the game when Carolina was in an obvious passing situation. Irvin rushed into Bell’s chest and pushed him back into Newton. Irvin then worked inside and sacked the quarterback for an eight-yard loss.
Bell becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and Saturday night might have been his last time in a Panthers’ uniform.
Brown active : Wide receiver Philly Brown was active for the game after being listed as questionable with a shoulder injury.
Brown caught two passes for 24 yards as he offered the Panthers a speed option in the passing game. His first target of the game, though, resulted in an interception by Richard Sherman.
Carolina did bring practice squad receiver Stephen Hill to Seattle in case the team needed to make a roster move.
Kick it again : Graham Gano attempted three field goals to end the first half and two didn’t count.
Gano attempted a 35-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in the first half. The kick would have been good, but Chris Scott was flagged for a false start.
On the 40-yard attempt, Seattle’s Kam Chancellor jumped over the line for a second consecutive play and nearly blocked the kick. Gano’s attempt went wide left, but Chancellor ran into Gano and was flagged for 5 yards.
Gano’s third and final attempt, this time from 35 yards again, was good and the Panthers went into halftime trailing 14-10.
• The Panthers will have the 25th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
• Earl Thomas had a near interception of Newton on a late first-half pass to Kelvin Benjamin. The play was originally ruled an interception but was overturned when the officials saw Thomas did not control the pass to the ground.
• Bené Benwikere and Paul Richardson were injured on the same play early in the third quarter. The two went to the same Southern California high school, and Benwikere went to check on Richardson after he was on his feet.
• Former Davidson standout Stephen Curry flew up from California and was on the sideline for the game.
• The video board operator showed a “city comparison” and had Charlotte’s favorite sport as NASCAR. It drew laughs from the crowd, which later cheered when their city’s favorite sport was shown to be football.
By the numbers
3: Consecutive three-and-outs for the Panthers’ offense to start the game.
12: Minutes into the first quarter before Carolina got a first down.
19:10: Time of possession for Carolina in the first half.