The Panthers came out on the wrong end of another close game and it's time to start wondering what the problem is. The Panthers have blown second half leads in three of their four losses now, which shows just how close they are from taking that next step needed to begin winning more consistently.
Carolina currently stands at 1-4 and are in last place in the NFC South. The dreams of reaching the postseason are begin to close and you have to think they need to turn it around next week against the division rival Falcons if they have any hopes of finishing the season with a winning record and having a shot at the playoffs.
Here are some significant points to take away from the Panthers 30-27 loss to New Orleans.
Cam Newton put the team in a hole early with an interception on the first offensive play of the game. This set up a score for Drew Brees and you could already tell the Panthers were in dire need of a momentum switch if they wanted to get back in the game.
While Newton would go on to throw a 54-yard touchdown to Steve Smith later in the first quarter, he'll need to cut down on the arrant throws. The interception by Patrick Robinson looked more like a reception—Newton put it right in his chest.
Making some safer, easier throws early on may be best for Newton. Even starting off with an option run may do some good to get him in a groove.
This is not necessarily a positive or negative slide. There was plenty of good and some bad play by the special teams unit today.
Let's start off with the bad. After Steve Smith's 54-yard touchdown reception, the ensuing extra point was blocked. That resulted in some lost momentum for the Panthers. In the second quarter, Mark Ingram was flagged for taunting and the Saints were forced to kick off from their own 20-yard line. The Panthers were set up at about the 35 yard-line following the kick off, but a personal foul pushed Carolina back to their own 19. Dumb miscues like that need to be avoided.
On to the positive. Carolina didn't allow any long kick or punt returns. That's a very good sign moving forward because New Orleans has a great return team lead by the always dangerous Darren Sproles.
This one hurts badly now when you look at the final score. As the first half was coming to a close, the Saints attempted to rush their field goal unit onto the field and end the second quarter with three more points on the board, but they couldn't get set up in time and the clock seemingly ran out.
However, a few Panthers were jogging off the field and Ron Rivera feared that his team may be called for too many men on the field, so he called a timeout with two seconds left on the clock. In hindsight, the timeout was a mistake because there was no way that the Panthers would have been called for the penalty, seeing as the ball was never snapped by New Orleans.
Needless to say, John Kasay lined up and nailed the 46-yard field goal on the next play. The majority of the blame goes to Rivera, but those few players that didn't sprint off the field should take some heat as well.
Newton played well considering the adversity he faced early on. After throwing an interception on the first play of the game, most rookies would fold, but Newton came back and played a better game from that point on. His receivers need to do a better job of coming back to the ball and also hanging onto it when he puts them in a position to make a play—I'm talking to you, Legedu Naanee.
Newton showed some great resilience and even though Carolina didn't come away with a win, you can see the fire burning in this guy. His time will come, but it's going to be a tough road to get there. The fanbase and coaches should remain patient because it's not a sprint when you have a rookie quarterback. He has about two decades left to win some championships for this team, no need to sweat the losses this early on.
With just over seven minutes remaining in the game, it's third down and two and your team in up by four points. You have a rookie quarterback and you're near midfield. You're also aware that you're running game has been successful all day and you have three weapons who can run the ball very well.
Why in the world would you go for a deep pass? Rob Chudzinski did exactly that and it may have cost Carolina the game. The team was successful with their short throws and runs on third down all game and they should have followed that formula. Instead, they gave Drew Brees the ball with 7:06 on the clock and he drove down the field and won the game for the Saints.