Today was a chance for the Carolina Panthers to take a two-game lead on Atlanta and maintain their slim one-game lead on Tampa Bay. Opportunity lost.
Maybe the team didn’t get enough sleep Saturday night. Maybe the players were upset that they had been asked to play in Atlanta. Maybe some bad meat was served during the pre-game meal.
Whatever it was, it was enough to cause the offense to come out looking like they didn’t belong on the same field with the Falcons. The defense appeared lost.
Zero first downs in the first quarter and the same number of yards gained by the offense – well, that’s just pathetic.
Meanwhile, Atlanta was converting 3 of their first four third downs while scoring on all of their first three possessions and taking a 17-0 lead. In the end, that was the difference.
Carolina would score 13 straight points but then let Atlanta regain the momentum. Still, in the fourth quarter, the Panthers would draw to within three at 24-21.
The critical play occurred on, of course, a third down. Third down and 11 from their own 24, Atlanta. Matt Ryan hits Harry Douglas on a crossing route and he wasn’t knocked out of bounds until he had reached the Carolina 7 yard line. Four plays later, Michael Turner was scoring his third of four TD’s and the lead was back to ten. The game was pretty much over right there.
Why such slow starts? Why do these guys seem to keep coming out looking like they aren’t ready and aren’t interested?
It’s back to second place thanks to tie breakers and up next is a brutal schedule including road games against Green Bay, New York Giants and New Orleans and home dates with Tampa Bay and Denver.
If the Panthers want to accomplish something this season they have some issues to correct. They better correct them in a hurry.
Here are some random thoughts from today’s loss:
- Why were the Panthers not in the hurry up with 7:13 to go trailing 31-21?
- After looking solid all season, the Carolina special teams allowed a punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
- At halftime we should have all known what was coming. The weatherman got his face time during the 15 minute break and told us that clouds were rolling in from the Atlanta area bringing in rain. More than that was coming from Atlanta.
- More false start penalties today – Jeff Otah, Muhsin Muhammad, Jordan Gross and Dante Rosario. Isn’t this a veteran team?
- Tell me, do you think Matt Ryan plays like a rookie?
- Talk about two different games. First time around the Panthers manhandled Michael Turner. Today, he had 117 yards and FOUR touchdowns!
- John Fox’s response at halftime when asked what they needed to correct, “Everything.”
- After a 264-yard performance on the ground versus Detroit, Carolina had all of 33 yards on the ground in the first half.