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Notebook: Panthers frustrated by late calls

Chris Tabor

CHARLOTTE — Panthers interim coach Chris Tabor was clearly agitated with a couple of calls that went against his team in a 33-30 loss to the Packers Sunday, frustrated at how close they were or might have been to their third win of the season.

"I love the fight in our guys," Tabor said. "We ran out of time. That's what happened ...

"I think those are going to be great talking points for you. There's going to be a lot of great stories that can be written about that."

In reiterating that they "ran out of time," he was speaking both thematically and in the case of a late spike attempt after Bryce Young completed a pair of passes to move them into field goal range. But officials ruled there was no time left by the time the Panthers got the ball to the ground, and that timing was not reviewable.

"There are two parts of the replay rule that are in effect at the end of the game in this situation," NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson said. "Replay can stop the game and restore time only if there are two or more seconds to be added to the game. But, as part of the same rule, we can assist the on-field officials. What the officials were doing was they were getting together. What they ruled was that the ball was snapped with one on the clock, but by the time the ball hit the ground, they had zero. They asked us if we could confirm that, and we did confirm to them that, in fact, the clock actually went to zero just as it was leaving the quarterback's hand, so it was clearly at zero when it hit the ground. And we could confirm that to the crew."

But even before that play, the Panthers were incensed about a play they challenged unsuccessfully. With the Packers driving for a game-winning field goal, quarterback Jordan Love hit Romeo Doubs down the sideline for a 36-yard gain. The ball appeared to move as Doubs landed, but upon replay, it was confirmed. On the FOX broadcast, former officiating chief Dean Blandino said it should have been overturned.

Tabor said he was going to call a timeout at that moment anyway, so the chance to keep the game from being tied was worth a challenge.

"Saw that the ball got bobbled, there was a lot of conversation from New York," Tabor said. "They went with the ruling on the field. So we're going to burn the timeout there anyway, so you might as well try to get the ball back."

Officials obviously disagreed with his assessment.

"The ruling on the field, obviously, is where we start," Anderson said. "It was a catch, and the receiver maintained control throughout the process as he was going to the ground. We actually did see the ball touch the ground, but we also saw that he had control of the ball in his left hand. The left hand never came off the ball, and there were no available shots that show that he actually lost control of the ball in his left hand, even though the ball touched the ground. The ball is allowed to touch the ground as long as there's no evidence that he lost control, and we didn't think it was clear and obvious that he did. And since the ruling on the field was a catch, we stayed with the ruling on the field."

Panthers players had their own opinions, which is why the reaction on their sideline right next to the play was so over-the-top.

"No, I think it was a drop," cornerback Jaycee Horn said. "They made the wrong call."

"I saw the whole play," said wide receiver Adam Thielen. "I saw a catch and then the ball moving. As he's going to the ground, the ball moves, controls it again, hits the ground, and then loses it again. So in my opinion, you know, the ball moved twice and two different times. So there really wasn't enough time to control the ball. They say control and then a football move; there was no football move. And then he rolls out of bounds. So you can slow-mo it and say, 'Oh, one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand.' Well, it's in slow-mo. Full speed, that's a no-catch. So kind of what you get when you play the Packers?"

Asked what he meant by that, the veteran of the NFC North replied: "Usually, they get the benefit of the doubt on some calls."

Shy Tuttle

— Tabor mentioned three injuries that kept players from finishing the game.

Gunner and outside linebacker Amaré Barno left with a knee injury in the first quarter and was carted off.

Tabor also mentioned that running back Miles Sanders had a toe injury, and cornerback Troy Hill was in the concussion protocol after a late shot.

— Even though the defense had lapses early, there were moments in the second half when they returned to their hard-hitting ways of late.

In fact, everyone heard Packers running back Aaron Jones' thoughts on the matter.

After Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu hit him hard for no gain — flying through the hole at full speed — the referee's microphone picked up Jones' reply.

"Frankie you didn't have to hit me that hard," Jones could be heard saying. "Oh no, man," Luvu said with a laugh. "That's my guy. I know him well, I train with him and like he's a good guy. That's my dog, Jones, so shout out to him, but it was that type of game.

"I know he was going to bring it, and I was going to bring it, and it just happened so fast."

— In a 2-13 season, there's a ceiling on how much any of these games mean individually, but Tabor was as animated as he's gotten in a post-game press conference since taking over as the interim coach.

Ultimately, he said it was because he was "disappointed" that a chance for a signature win fell from their fingertips at the last second.

"I'm disappointed for those guys in that room," Tabor said. "They laid everything out on the line right there, and we played, we ran out of time, and we're getting better. There's no doubt about that. I think that that's evident in how we're playing.

"As I said, I don't like to lose. Nobody likes to lose when you're keeping score. I mean, you don't like to lose, and we lost. So it hurts at this moment and it hurts because you care and you care about the guys that you're in battle with and all those things. I love them to death. And it just hurts."

View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Green Bay Packers in Week 16.

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