With less than two minutes to play and the Carolina Panthers sitting on a 28-27 lead over the Atlanta Falcons and with the ball, it looked like the Panthers were on their way to handing Atlanta their first loss of the season. Yet, with one questionable play call and a slippery-fingered superstar, Carolina proved they don’t have the mental toughness to finish down the stretch.
Carolina called a QB-keeper on third and two and Cam coughed up the game. After gaining the first down that would clinch the Panther win, Cam Newton fumbled the ball going for extra yards on the play. This set up the eventual game winning Atlanta field goal. Some will call this bad luck, others will blame Cam, but who’s questioning the play call?
I understand the temptation to run the ball with Cam and it might very well have been the right call, but why not hand it to your fullback? Yes, Newton averaged 9.6 yards per carry on the game and was slicing and dicing the Atlanta defense, but QBs are traditionally not the people you want pounding out that two-yard critical first down when the defense knows you’re going to run at the end of the game. I know Cam’s a very large player, but he isn’t the most sure-handed of runners and his eagerness to gain extra yards cost Carolina dearly.
In the end Cam cost Carolina the game. "You have to protect the football," Newton said. "That was a key focus going into this game, and I fumbled. There's a lot of guys that are trusting the ball carrier, and I was the ball carrier that particular play to get the job done. And I dropped the ball."
Not to take anything away from Matt Ryan though because he had another impressive game going 25-40 for 369 yards, 3 TDs, and only 1 pick. He also delivered the late game heroics on a last second bomb that setup the winning field goal. Ryan recounts, "I threw it high and far to the spot we talked about. Roddy went up and made a great catch. When you're in that situation late in the game, that's what you have to do."
Making the big plays when it counts behind smart play calling late in the game was the difference.
Photo Credit: Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI