Tom Sorensen

Carolina Panthers’ problems: Can’t close, can’t maintain a streak, can’t make playoffs

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera was criticized for not ordering his quarterback to take a knee late in Sunday’s three-point loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He would have been criticized more if Cam Newton dropped to a knee and Carolina lost in overtime.

The Panthers played their best ball of the season most of Sunday afternoon, handling a good team and taking a 17-0 lead. But they can’t close.

We remember the Panthers rolling over opponents last season, just destroying them. They also won every close game they played. They were 5-0 in games determined by five or fewer points.

How did they win all those close games? Maybe the ball bounced their way. More likely, the more close games they won, the more they believed they would win. They earned the right to be confident. The game is close, we are the Panthers, and so we win.

This season they are 1-4 in games decided by five or fewer points. I wrote weeks ago that they had no chance to make the playoffs. Don’t care how bad the NFC South is; they simply aren’t good enough to sustain a winning streak.

I’d love to see them go on a tear and claim the division. But they won’t.

Last season they would have beaten Kansas City. Last season feels like a long time ago.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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