Panthers Drop Another Game With Risky Play Call

The Carolina Panthers dropped their second straight game with a 20-19 loss on the road to the Detroit Lions.  This was a bad loss for the Panthers, as the Lions were just 3-6 coming into today and seemed to be backsliding.  In my preview yesterday I predicted the Panthers would jump on them early and never look back.  With a quick touchdown right out of the gate, this looked like it was going to be the case.  But the Lions came right back at them with an early score of their own.  From there both offenses stalled and couldn’t get anything going.  The Panthers had to begin several drives from inside their own 15 yard line, credit to the Lions special teams.  The Lions finally tacked on a field goal and led 10-7 at the half.

Photo Credit: Associated Press Paul Sancya

Photo Credit: Associated Press Paul Sancya

What concluded as a pretty slow half of football became much more interesting in the second half.  After a very good start from Lions running back Kerryon Johnson, he exited the game in the 3rd quarter with a knee injury.  This was a huge blow to the Lions, who are already pretty banged up.  But the Lions were able to add another field goal in the 3rd, increasing their lead to 13-7.

Cam Newton and the Panthers were finally able to get back in the end zone with a touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel with nine minutes remaining in the 4th.  They were all set to regain the lead until Graham Gano, yes Graham Gano, missed the extra point.  This was moments after he missed his first field goal of the year after an 82 yard reception from D.J. Moore that set the Panthers up in prime position to score.  The usually reliable Gano was off today, but those two misses proved to ultimately do the Panthers in.  With the game tied at 13 apiece, the Lions put together a drive of their own, which resulted in a Sports Center Top 10-like touchdown catch from Kenny Golladay from Matthew Stafford.

The Panthers were not done yet, however.  They marched down the field and scored their second touchdown of the quarter with a pass from Newton to Moore.  This is where things got interesting.  “Riverboat” Ron Rivera, known for his gutsy play-calling, elected to forego the Graham Gano extra point kick to tie it up, and go for the win.  The play call was a pass, in which Newton dropped back and found a wide open Jarius Wright in the middle of the end zone.  The throw, however, missed high.  This gave the Lions the 20-19 win as they were able to kneel the ball to run out the clock.

This was an absolute heartbreaker for Carolina.  The missed field goal, the missed extra point, and the missed wide open target at the end to win the game.  Do I like head coach Ron Rivera’s call to go for it at the end, instead of kicking the extra point and ultimately playing for overtime?  No I don’t.  I think if you’re the Panthers, you have to trust your defense to make a stop in overtime, and let Newton lead another touchdown or field goal drive.  The Panthers are the better team and you have to think the chances were better of them winning in overtime than completing that 2-pt. conversion play.  And you also have to believe that Gano would make that extra point kick, even after a rough day.  He is one of the best kickers in the game and has been reliable all year.  This is a tough one to handle for Panthers fans, but this team is still capable of great things.  Next week they will face the Seattle Seahawks back home in Charlotte.