Well, that just happened…again. Yes, the Carolina Panthers blew another game. This time it came to the Buffalo Bills and this time it will have lasting ramifications.
The 2013 Panthers’ playoff hopes can pretty much be kissed goodbye. Want to know the last time a team made the playoffs after starting 0-2? Five years ago. Want to know the percentage of teams to make the playoffs after starting 0-2? A tad over 11 percent.
This may seem too reactionary, but the fact is the team is 2-14 under Ron Rivera in games decided by six points or less. They’ve squandered two chances already this season and they will squander more as long as Rivera and his staff are in charge. One of his biggest problems in his tenure with the Panthers has been playing not to lose. We saw it again against Buffalo when the team ran three straight runs to force Doug Marrone to use up all his timeouts.
On 4th-and-1 Rivera opted to send the field goal unit instead of going for the win. A first down and the game is over and I’m writing a completely different story. Instead I’m writing a familiar story; one that has been read far too often by Panthers fans the past two years.
After the Panthers settled for another field goal, Graham Gano booted another kick out of the end zone giving EJ Manuel the ball at the 20-yard line with 1:38 remaining. He proceeded to complete passes underneath and allow his teammates to make plays. It was far too easy and reminiscent of last year’s game against Tampa Bay and Chicago.
With six seconds remaining and from Carolina’s two-yard line he took the snap and found Steve Johnson wide open in the end zone. Luke Kuechly didn’t quite get to Manuel in time, but the story of the play was D.J. Moore and Josh Norman getting mixed up in coverage allowing Johnson to run free. It was the type of communication error you would expect from a pair of backups forced into action due to injuries. It was also another reason why it was silly for Rivera to rely on his defense with how banged up it was to close out the game.
It’ll be interesting to see what the fallout of this game is, but the fire Rivera crowd just got even bigger. We’ll have more analysis later on.