For about forty five minutes, just forty five minutes, I thought it was going to happen. I couldn’t believe it, and yet, it was happening. There I was Sunday afternoon after church, sitting on my living room couch, watching the Panthers and Bears game on FOX. What I was witnessing though, wasn’t what a Panther’s fan normally is witness to. The Panthers were winning, and not just winning, but they had a real and good lead on the Chicago Bears. I couldn’t believe it.
But then it happened. After leading the Bears 19-7 going into the fourth period, the Panthers lost it. They just lost it. Looking back at the stats its pretty hard to convince yourself how it all happened. It’s a lot easier if you actually watched the game (duh).
But in all honesty, the Panthers’ defense played a hell of a game. The Bears were kept to 210 total yards to the Panthers’ 416 (including Cam Newton throwing for 314 yards) and Jay Cutler only threw for one touchdown. One touchdown. The Bears rushed for no more than 75 yards and the offense as a whole suffered three turnovers—one interception and two fumbles. Possession time? Carolina, 36:38; Chicago, 23:22. So what happened?
A constant throughout the game was Carolina’s kickoff after each scoring drive. Medlock was having wind problems so he couldn’t do a regular kick—throughout most of the game, the Bears offense got the ball back in favorable position. Let’s add to that a sort-of justified fear the Panthers had of the Bears’ kickoff return. What really hurt the Panthers was the lack of offense. Sure, they scored 19 points, but let’s remember that they got four field goals. In multiple offensive drives into the red zone, the Panthers only managed to score one touchdown and had to settle for four FGs. And that’s fine, FGs are fine, unless the other team is scoring touchdowns (one returned after an interception).
Tim Jennings’ interception of Cam’s pass after Steve Smith’s slip was pretty heart-breaking. 20-19; Bears. It was a tough play. But, hey, stuff happens, people slip, throws land in the wrong hands. You can’t really practice for those crazy moment when it all falls apart.
The defining element of the Panthers’ loss was the inability to put out big points in the red zone. Out of the six scoring trips to the red zone, had half been touchdowns instead of field goals we would have had a completely different game—30-23, Panthers. But no. That wasn’t the case. The Panthers simply couldn’t get through to the end zone, and that cost them the game.
Sadly enough, the Panthers seem to find a new way to lose each Sunday.
The Carolina Panthers go up to Washington next weekend to face RGIII’s Redskins. Let’s see what happens then.
PS: I didn’t comment a lot on the ugly Panther kicking this game (besides the field goals). There’s been a lot of talk about the wind and what else. For more on that, check out this story from The Charlotte Observer.