ATLANTA – In less than one quarter of play, quarterback Derek Anderson posted a game's worth of numbers – and often in his case, a season's worth.
Just when it looked like Anderson might direct a comeback of historic proportions, the chance slipped through his hands – quite literally.
Playing the final 10 minutes of Sunday's game at the Atlanta Falcons in relief of Cam Newton, Anderson tossed a pair of touchdown passes to spark a stirring rally, but the one pass he'd like to have back negated all his good work.
"We did too much to get to that point to throw the pick-six to lose," Anderson said. "We did a lot to get back in it, and I didn't give us a chance there."
Newton started the rally by directing the Panthers to their first offensive touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter, but his two-point conversion run that made it 34-18 landed him in the concussion protocol and put Anderson in the fray.
Seeing extensive action for the first time this season, all Anderson did was complete 16 of his first 19 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns, and he got a chance to continue and possibly tie the score when the offense got the ball back with 1:25 left, trailing 41-33.
But on the first snap, Anderson thought about throwing the ball to tight end Greg Olsen but then thought better of it – too late, as the ball sailed out of his hand and into the hands of cornerback Robert Alford for a pick-six.
"I tried to pull it back and just hold onto it," Anderson said. "It turned into a non-confident throw."
The Panthers will no doubt have confidence in Anderson if he gets the call next week on Monday Night Football against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He's started twice in place of Newton in their five-plus seasons together – both in 2014, both against the Buccaneers, and both resulting in victories.
"He did some really good things with the exception of the one he thought he was throwing away," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He made some really good reads, and he handled the situation and the set of circumstances well. He gave us a chance, but you can't make mistakes. We made some mistakes, and they capitalized."
View game action photos from Carolina's 48-33 loss to Atlanta.