Constant miscommunication between Cam Newton and Greg Olsen, not throwing a completing until the middle of the second quarter and three interceptions cost Carolina Panthers an NFC South title.
The mindset heading into Panthers game against Atlanta Falcons was to win no matter what to “keep as much momentum going forward as possible,” head coach Ron Rivera said ahead of the game. A New Orleans Saints loss would have gave them an opportunity to win the NFC South for the fourth time in five years and as a result Saints did lose on Sunday, however, it didn’t matter as Panthers were defeated 22-10 to Falcons.
Newton started the game 0-9 passing before he led the team on a 16-play, 78-yard drive for a touchdown to tie the game. On the drive they found themselves in a 3rd and 23 situation with 1:02 remaining at the Falcons 31-yard line. Newton, with time, was able to find Brenton Bersin running off a post towards the left sideline to pick up the first down on the 27-yard completion. Afterwards, Newton capped off the drive with a touchdown strike to Devin Funchess. However, this would be the only time Panthers offense was insync as they only scored three points in the second half.
Part of the problem for Panthers is receivers were not able to get much separation from Falcons secondary. Throughout the game there were incidents were Olsen and Funchess complained to referees the Falcons defense were physical to the point they should have been throwing flags.
“We just have to understand a game like this and the games moving forward guys aren’t going to be scott free,” Newton said during the postgame press conference. “We have to maximize on opportunities that we do get. There’s no need to panic.”
After the game Rivera revealed he had no idea until the game ended that Saints lost. While the mindset was to win no matter what it did not help knowing they lost a shot to win the division.
“Mad, disappointed, take your pick,” Rivera said. “You got to take advantage of your opportunity.”
For Rivera there’s a few things he’s concerned about heading into the postseason.
“That we complete passes, that we run the ball better, that we’re better on third down on defense,” Rivera said.
When Rivera spoke to the media on Monday he made it known the entire team is no longer thinking of that week 17 lost against Falcons.
“We missed some opportunities, we didn’t get things done; and I, quite honestly, want to get past this game so I’m not going to answer any more questions [about that game],” Rivera said Monday. “We’re getting for New Orleans so that’s my approach and that’s my approach with the players, okay.”
Panthers will head to New Orleans in a wildcard match-up against a foe they have lost to twice this season.
By Gino Terrell