Fans of the Carolina Panthers can point to any number of reasons why their team lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional round on Sunday.
There were a number of questionable calls that went against the Panthers, the 49ers steamrolled their vaunted defense in the second half and the team lacked composure throughout the game, especially early on.
Ultimately, though, the Panthers' season ended because of the failings of their offense, and that starts with coordinator Mike Shula.
Quarterback Cam Newton played exceptionally well in the first half, but the Panthers only managed to put 10 points on the board due to the failings of their red-zone offense. The team had seven opportunities near the goal line to punch the ball in for a touchdown but failed on every attempt. As a result, the Panthers only banked three out of a possible 14 points and ended up trailing at halftime despite being the superior team through the first 30 minutes.
Shula's play-calling near the goal line was definitely suspect. The Panthers had success on the ground all season, but running up the middle over and over again at the heart of an excellent 49ers defense isn't the best recipe for scoring points.
There was also the fact that the 49ers dominated defensively after the break. The adjustments made by San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio were masterful, as the unit harassed Newton throughout the final two quarters, sacking him four times and landing eight hits. The Panthers scored zero points in the second half.
The Panthers had a fantastic season, but they simply ran into a better team on Sunday. That doesn't change the fact that Shula's unit failed. His goal-line play-calling and inability to adjust in the second half doomed the team.