CHARLOTTE – In his six-year NFL career, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen had never caught as many passes for as many yards as he did Sunday.
The only numbers that mattered to Olsen, though, weren't worth highlighting.
"You can't beat that team with that formula," Olsen said following the Panthers' 36-14 loss to the Denver Broncos. "You've got to limit the negatives and then hope your good play is enough to win. You can't overcome yourself and them; it's too hard."
Olsen hauled in nine passes for 102 yards and scored both of the Panthers' touchdowns, just the second multi-touchdown game of his career. But rather than talking about his 4-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead or his 5-yard score well after the Broncos had the victory in hand, Olsen wanted to talk about his missed block that typified the day for the Panthers' protection.
With the Panthers trailing 24-7 late in the third quarter and facing a third-and-2 at their own 30-yard line, Broncos linebacker Von Miller came through untouched and brought quarterback Cam Newton down for a 4-yard loss.
"That's on me," Olsen said. "I heard a different call. Von Miller is hard enough to block, let alone when one man goes one way and one goes the other.
"You can't do it. You can't have those mistakes, and we seemed to have a lot of them."
If not for Olsen, though, the scoreboard might have looked even worse. While Olsen and Newton connected on all but one of Olsen's 10 targets, the rest of the team turned 26 targets into 12 receptions for 137 yards – just three catches and 35 yards more than Olsen single-handedly managed.
"Greg is a very impactful player in this offense," Newton said. "A lot of reads today were toward him. I got him the football, and he made plays."
It had been a great week on a personal level for Olsen. Tuesday, his infant son T.J. went home for the first time, four weeks after his birth. He was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a potentially fatal condition, but he made it through a dangerous surgery two days after his birth and then remained in the hospital to recover.
Sunday was also a successful day for Olsen on a strictly personal level, but it sure didn't feel like it.
"You got to play well and then let the chips fall where they may, but we didn't give ourselves a chance," Olsen said. "We have seven games left, and if you pack it in this week you're not going to last for long. There's not a quitter in this room, but it's frustrating."