CHARLOTTE – Panthers quarterback Cam Newton blamed himself for the seven sacks and the safety the offense yielded to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, and he praised tight end Greg Olsen for his strong showing.
Olsen blamed himself for some of the protection problems, and he praised the defense – led by rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly - for giving the Panthers a chance to win.
Kuechly blamed the defense for allowing the Broncos into the red zone three times and allowing them to twice reach the end zone once there.
The Panthers were accountable to a fault after the game.
Unfortunately, they didn't do much about it during the game.
"If you look at it, you'll see that we missed some opportunities," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "We missed some blocks. When the ball is thrown, you have to catch it. You have to make good decisions when you throw it. Defensively, we were really good on third down, but you can't give up a big play."
In the aftermath of a 36-14 loss at Bank of America Stadium, in the face of the harsh reality of a 2-7 record, it's admirable how players refused to throw each other under the bus. Next Sunday, though, they all need to be on the bus before the opening kickoff, ready to show that they really learned something from the schoolyard beatdown the Broncos delivered.
Newton, as the quarterback, will absorb the majority of the blame, deserved or not. And he didn't hesitate to point the finger at himself after tossing two interceptions – including a dagger that Denver returned for a touchdown for a 24-7 lead – and getting sacked a safety.
"I'm not going to thrash them because those guys are capable of doing things," Newton said of his offensive line. "Personally, I have to do a better job of getting the ball out to my outlets.
"I attribute it to the person in the mirror. I'll challenge myself to be better. Any competitor does that."
Left tackle Jordan Gross, however, readily admitted that the line didn't have its best day. And, at a certain point, credit must go to a worthy adversary, which the Broncos pass rush most certainly is.
When the Broncos had the ball, the Panthers defense often made it difficult on quarterback Peyton Manning and Co., but there's a reason that Manning is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Carolina's defense forced two turnovers and only allowed the Broncos into the end zone twice, but Manning completed 16 of his first 17 passes on his way to a 300-yard day.
"We did some things that were good, but our job is to not let them score," Kuechly said. "They scored their first touchdown on us, and the touchdown to end the game. We've got to do a better job."
Newton said the defense did its job, while the offense did not. In taking personal responsibility, he also tried to take on more.
"The mistakes of others," Newton said, "have to be made up for by another player."
That's a good thought in theory, but Newton himself has said that football is an 11-on-11 game, and that all 11 players must take care of business for a given play to work.
It's nice that the Panthers aren't trying to pass the blame for their myriad of mistakes. But for it to matter, they must make fewer mistakes next time out.