Panthers vs. Falcons: 4 Ways Carolina Gave the Game Away
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The Carolina Panthers started their Week 4 game against the Atlanta Falcons with the heart of the Carolina region. By the end of the game, the Panthers saw that heart ripped away violently as they gave the game away to Atlanta.
The 1-2 Panthers traveled to Atlanta to face the undefeated Falcons in Week 4. Atlanta was coming off a convincing win against the San Diego Chargers, while Carolina was trying to forget Week 3 ever happened.
The Panthers were destroyed 36-7 by the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football.
Immediately, Atlanta was in for a fight as two things happened for the first time this season. For the first time, Carolina's defense stopped a team from scoring on the opening drive, and the Falcons offense was stopped for the first time on the opening drive.
The Panthers fought hard, and it was a back-and-forth game.
With about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, Cam Newton hit WR Kealoha Pilares on a screen pass for a touchdown. The next drive, Atlanta kicked a field goal, but Carolina would have the ball with only five minutes remaining.
Little did anyone know, these would be the most uplifting, and then heartbreaking, minutes of the Panthers season.
After a three-and-out by Carolina, Atlanta followed with a three-and-out courtesy of yet another Charles Johnson sack (he had three-and-a-half on the day). The Panthers had the ball with a little over two minutes left.
So how did the Panthers, who were the better team, lose when the win was practically in their lap?
Jon Beason Is Not the "Beast" Just Yet
It's great to have # 52 back, but he needs to play better.
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MLB Jon Beason was arguably the best MLB in the NFL before he fell to injury last season. His return was highly anticipated, and the Carolina defense would hopefully be much improved.
Unfortunately, Beason has not returned to being "The Beast," as he was known by many Panther fans. Carolina's Week 4 game against Atlanta showed how much the former All-Pro linebacker has to improve.
Beason struggled, and he only recorded two tackles with three assists. He had trouble tackling against the Giants, and the problem re-occurred against the Falcons. He constantly would hit RB Michael Turner, but he would just bounce off or Turner would shed him without effort.
What was a bigger problem against Atlanta was his coverage skills. Beason could not cover, and his lack of awareness contributed to WR Roddy White's second touchdown. The pass went right by Beason, but his head was not turned.
If Beason had been more aware, he could have intercepted the ball, eliminating Atlanta's touchdown. At the very least, he could have deflected the pass and forced the Falcons to kick a field goal, as it was third down.
It is good to have Beason's leadership back, but his play was a contributing factor to Carolina's loss.
Steve Smith Was a Difference-Maker, but Not in a Good Way
Smith's fumble could have cost Carolina the game
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It is difficult to recall any time that Steve Smith has hurt his team while on the field. Carolina's firecracker has always been the main target for Newton, and he is usually a significant part of a Panthers' win.
Against Atlanta, Smith was a go-to target for Cam. He had three catches for 52 yards.
But for once, Smith cost the Panthers. Late in the third quarter, Smith was called for offensive pass interference, which pushed Carolina back from their 46 to the 36-yard line. The Panthers were not able to recover, and they may have missed out on at least three points.
Smith's biggest failure, though, was a fumble on a reverse.
The 5'9" receiver had ran around the edge on a reverse, and he had surpassed the first down marker. As luck would have it, CB Dunta Robinson got his hand in and poked the ball out.
The Falcons recovered the ball at Carolina's 30-yard line, and it resulted in a field goal.
This was a huge blow to the Panthers as Atlanta had just scored a touchdown to tie the game. This gave the Falcons the edge they needed to get back into the game. Plus, the Panthers lost by a field goal, and had Smith not fumbled, Carolina would likely be 2-2.
Cam Newton Couldn't Come Through When He Was Needed Most
Cam's fumble shifted the game in Atlanta's favor
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The play of the game came with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter. Atlanta had no timeouts, and the Panthers had third down with two yards to go. A first down guarantees that Carolina wins.
It was a designed quarterback run, and Newton crossed the first-down line. Then the unthinkable happened, and Newton fumbled the football.
Carolina recovered the football, but it was before the first-down marker. With a tough call to make, coach Ron Rivera chose to punt. He could have chose to go for it, but the ball would have been at midfield if they had failed.
Atlanta drives, kicks a field goal and the Panthers lose.
But let's rewind and look at how Atlanta got the ball in the first place. Matt Ryan does not make a great throw to Roddy White, and he does not earn his fourth win if Cam doesn't fumble.
Despite all that happened before the fumble, Carolina had the lead with a chance to win the game. And everything that happened on the Falcons' final drive was an effect of the fumble. Basically, the moment of the game came down to Cam Newton, and he failed.
He had one job to do, and that was all he had to do. He did not do it, and the Panthers lost.
Cam even recognized, after the game, that it was his fault.
In this league, you have to protect the football, Newton said, That was a key focus going into this game. I fumbled. It’s a lot of guys that’s trusting the ball carrier, whoever it is in any case, and I was the ball carrier on that particular play to get the job done. I failed.
Newton is still young, and he will hopefully learn from this. But in the here-and-now, Cam lost the game for the Panthers. But he is not the only one.
Nakamura Has a Game to Forget
Nakamura allowed a 59-yard pass to Roddy White to get the Falcons rolling
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Cam Newton was not the only one to acknowledge that he lost the game. FS Haruki Nakamura also feels he cost Carolina the game.
I basically cost us the football game. It’s hard on me because I’m supposed to come in and be a difference-maker, Nakamura said. And when you cost the team a football game, especially for how hard we played, its hard to deal with. This team deserves better. Especially giving up stupid plays like I did. Unfortunately, I cost us the game (Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer via HeraldOnline.com).
He has every right to feel down. He allowed a big touchdown to Roddy White, and then he allowed the 59-yard pass from Atlanta's 1-yard line, which helped set up the winning field goal.
It was a crushing day for the former Baltimore safety. He started the day by intercepting Matt Ryan in the end zone. Then his day came crashing down, and it culminated with the huge pass to Roddy White.
Nakamura and the rest of the Panthers had their hearts wrenched out. It is up to them to learn from the loss, and make sure the pain they feel never happens again.