CHARLOTTE – When you're mired in a losing streak, it seems like the opposing team always has an answer.
And throughout the Panthers' three-game losing streak, their opponents have literally answered almost every single time.
"It's huge. It's huge," head coach Ron Rivera said. "That sticks in your craw."
The stats are uncanny, and the impact is unnerving.
Aside from Carolina's field goal to close the first half against the Seahawks (Carolina got the ball back to start the second half), Carolina's offense has scored 10 times during the three-game skid. On the 10 drives immediately after the Panthers scored, the opponent answered with a score eight times.
The two times the opponent didn't score? They barely count. One was victory formation (Detroit). One was with a 31-point lead (Pittsburgh).
The eight answers to Panthers' scores? They sure counted. Like last week when Carolina took a 27-20 lead with 6:57 to play and for the fourth time in as many chances the Seahawks scored in response, tying a game they eventually won 30-27.
Add in what happened in Carolina's earlier losses to Atlanta and Washington, and only once in the Panthers' five losses has an opponent looking to immediately answer a Carolina score failed to post any points. Only once in 14 such situations.
"When you've got a team down, you've got to be able to finish them. We haven't been able to do that," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "Just last week, we're up 27-20 and we get them in a fourth down, and they score a touchdown. We've just got to be able to finish.
"And we always preach that: 'Hey, let's get a three-and-out and get the offense the ball back after they just put up points. Let's do that.'"
When the sermon sinks in, the Panthers are a powerhouse. During their three-game winning streak that preceded the three-game slide, the Carolina defense almost always followed success by the offense with success of its own.
Aside from Carolina's field goal to close the first half against the Ravens (Carolina got the ball back to start the second half), the Panthers scored 15 times during their three-game winning streak. On the 15 drives immediately after the Panthers scored, the opponent answered with a score just four times.
The four times the opponent did score? They barely count. The Buccaneers answered the Panthers when trailing 14-0 and 35-7, and the Ravens answered when trailing 27-7 and 36-14.
And here's the craziest part of it. The 11 times the opposition didn't answer immediately after a Panthers score, Carolina's offense scored on nine of the resulting possessions. The exceptions were with a 35-14 lead over Tampa Bay and when the offense was in victory formation after Carolina's defense had stuffed the Eagles to complete a historic fourth-quarter comeback.
"We have to play better complimentary football," quarterback Cam Newton said. "That's the difference between good teams and great teams."
Three times during Carolina's 42-28 victory over the Buccaneers in Week 9, this pattern played out: Panthers score a touchdown; defense holds; Panthers score a touchdown.
That was Carolina's last victory. Sunday, the Panthers pay a visit to the Buccaneers.
"If you can do that, if the offense scores and then we can go out and get a three-and-out and get our offense back on the field, the momentum is definitely in our favor," Munnerlyn said. "We have to be better in those situations. You can't whine or cry about it now. It's over. It's done. Let's get ready for Tampa Bay."