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Notes: Offense fumbles away critical conversion

Posted Sep 30, 2012

ATLANTA – Cam Newton and the Panthers offense could have ended Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons on their terms.

Carolina led 28-27 with 1:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, facing third-and-2. Since the Falcons had no timeouts remaining, a first down would have sealed the victory for the Panthers.

Instead, Newton fumbled just past the marker. Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert recovered the ball after it rolled backwards, and the Panthers wound up 1 yard short of a game-sealing first down.

Matt Ryan and the Falcons gained possession on their own 1-yard line, and Roddy White's 59-yard catch paved the way for Matt Bryant's 40-yard game-winning field goal.

"It shouldn't have even gotten to that point," Newton said. "We shouldn't have even been in that situation."

Newton knows the Panthers must learn how to put the finishing touches on games to close out narrow victories.  

"We are going to be in games like this. We have to play better," Newton said. "We have to be very relentless. We're not exempt from close games. At the end of the day, we have to have a mentality that we are going to find a way to win.

"We have to move forward and move on."

Newton, who finished 15-of-24 for 215 yards and two passing touchdowns in addition to 86 rushing yards and a score, took further accountability for the loss, saying while there is no finger pointing in the Carolina locker room, "If anything, you can point the finger at me."

But tight end Greg Olsen directed nothing but high praise at his quarterback.

"He played great today. He's the reason we were in the game to begin with," said Olsen, who caught six passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. "If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have been in a position to be (leading). Cam played awesome. He did everything he could do."


BEASON REACTS: Linebacker Jon Beason struggled to contain his emotions as the Panthers walked to their locker room after falling to the Falcons in stunning fashion.

That hurt had yet to subside for the Panthers captain when he talked with a group of reporters moments later.

"I think this is my 17th season I've been playing football. I've definitely been around some last-minute thrillers, but this one is going to be hard to wrap your mind around," Beason said.  

Then he took a deep breath and paused.

"You realize what happened and try to move forward. It's going to be a tough one."

Beason said that process begins with assessing his own performance.

"When stuff like this happens, first you have to take the onus on yourself and say, 'What could I have done better throughout the course of 60 minutes.' That's what I'm going to do. Look at how I could have affected the game to make the outcome different."


PILARES STRIKES: Wide receiver Kealoha Pilares' second career catch led to his first career receiving touchdown.

On third-and-10 in the fourth quarter, Pilares turned a quick screen pass into a 36-yard score to give the Panthers a 28-24 lead.

"We have been running that play (in practice) for about two weeks now," Pilares said. "I'm just glad it was called in this game. I was ready."

Pilares knew the play had scoring potential when it was called in the huddle, and it was executed just as it was drawn up. In fact, Pilares ran untouched into the end zone.

"For me, there is only a couple plays, so I just try to really concentrate on that one play and try to make the best of the opportunity I have," Pilares said. "Every chance I get, I just try to make an impact and help the team out.

"The guys did a great job blocking for me."


EDWARDS' FIRST CATCH: Pilares wasn't the only wideout to enjoy a career first on Sunday. Third-year wideout Armant Edwards notched his first career catch against the Falcons.  

Edwards reeled in a quick screen pass and picked up 12 yards for a first down. Edwards was involved in the very next play, as he lined up at quarterback in the shotgun formation, but his pass for Steve Smith over the middle fell incomplete.

That was Edwards' third career pass attempt.