All season long the Panthers have been praised for their exceptional play on the field only to take a loss in the 4th quarter. Rivera spoke with San Diego’s head coach Norv Turner after the loss in Atlanta who said “They are only one play away from winning.” This is definitely a true statement. But where is that one play? In Atlanta I can safely say it was that pick-six that got pulled down by one of Atlanta’s linemen. This week could have been any number of mistakes that were made from Smith’s crucial holding penalty to Olindo Mare’s missed field goal to send it to overtime. Dave Dameshek may have a Panther on his list of shame this week.
I personally feel the mistake was made right before halftime with about 1:15 left to play. The Panthers offense was rolling and had a fresh set of downs with 2 timeouts around the 30-yard line. What should have happened is the Panthers cal timeout, stop the clock and set up a big play to push the ball downfield. They had two timeouts to give so they could afford one timeout in each half of the field and take a few chances towards the endzone. Instead they decided to keep the clock running and try to keep the momentum. All it did was give Jared Allen a chance to do what he does best and he did. Cam fumbles , Minnesota recovers and they score on the next play.
It is painfully clear that the Panther defense is incapable of stopping the run against talented backs. Not only that, but they can’t stop offenses from making the 3rd down conversion. They are not a bad defense. They just have some holes that are too big to cover and if the play call isn’t a great one, they can’t keep them from the first down. On the opposite side of the ball, the Panthers offense has been phenomenal despite some obvious shortcomings with penalties and red zone offense, Nonetheless the Panthers have been able to score an average of about 20 points a game. If the defense can’t do it, the offense has too.
With that said, the coaches have a much bigger responsibility to their team by making the right choices. So far in the season there have been shots at a make-able field goal that were passed up, pass play calls when it clearly should have been a run call, and taking timeouts when they weren’t needed. In this case, they should have used a timeout. What were they going to do? Call timeout if the Vikes got the ball back with less than a minute to go? This is Rivera’s rookie season as well as Cam’s so there are going to be mistakes. The problem is, Cam has coped with the rookie status better than anyone in the league. With a player like that, it must be frustrating to lose games like this to a team like the Vikings. It would behoove the Panthers to spend more time on 4th quarter scenarios. Though the possibility of a post season could have been feasible with a win Sunday, those hopes are now shattered. Their only responsibility now has to be salvaging the broken dream by taking others out of the post season as well.