Learning how to win can be a painful, but ultimately worthwhile experience, and the Panthers are experiencing the difficulties of that process.
Carolina held a four-point lead over the Saints — a first-place team in its division — with 7:06 remaining in the fourth quarter Sunday. The Panthers had a chance to get a much-needed landmark win in the first season of the Cam Newton era, but the Saints took over on offense and went on a 13-play, 89-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead.
The Panthers had 50 seconds and all three of their timeouts as they took over after the Saints' TD, but didn't get past midfield and lost for the fourth time in five games, 30-27.
The PFW Spin
One of the hardest things to fathom from this game for the Panthers and their fans was a timeout called for by head coach Ron Rivera with two seconds left in the first half, which gave the Saints a chance to relax and leisurely set up for a field-goal attempt that they were initially scrambling to pull off.
As the Panthers' defense ran off the field and the field-goal block team ran onto it with the clock running and the Saints out of timeouts, the Panthers were worried they were going to have too many players on the field and get flagged for a penalty, stopping the clock and giving the Saints a shorter field-goal attempt and a second chance to kick.
Carolina called a timeout, and Saints PK John Kasay, who spent the previous 16 seasons with the Panthers, made a 46-yard field goal to give New Orleans a 20-13 lead.
Rivera, in comments after the game, took responsibility for calling the timeout and said he "over-thought" in that situation. Regardless of the explanation, the decision had a huge impact on the outcome Sunday. It's very possible that the Saints would not have snapped the ball in time and the half would have ended.
There was plenty to like about what the Panthers did Sunday. Their special-teams play improved after a poor performance vs. Chicago. The offensive line held up well and cleared the way for DeAngelo Williams to rush for 115 yards and his first TD of the season. The defense didn't allow RBs Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas to have a run longer than eight yards. Newton scored three touchdowns (two passes, one rush) and is still on pace to throw for more than 5,000 yards.
Yet, the 1-4 Jaguars are the only team the Panthers have defeated this season.
Carolina is showing us that it's not ready to win just yet, and the frustration for a young, promising team is growing each week.
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