Rapid Reactions: Missed opportunities cost Panthers in heartbreaking loss

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The Big Headline

Things weren't looking good for the Panthers early on against the Saints. Two New Orleans touchdowns and a special teams disaster put Carolina in an early 14-0 hole. However, the Panthers were able to get in a rhythm in the second quarter and climb back into the game to make things competitive, before ultimately falling to the Saints, 34-31.

After forcing a turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers took over in Saints territory. However, the Panthers were unable to capitalize on offense, and kicker Joey Slye missed a 28-yard go-ahead field goal leaving the door open for Drew Brees and the Saints.

With 1:56 left in the game, Brees proceeded to lead the Saints down the field for a game-winning field goal as time expired.

The loss to the Saints drops the Panthers to 5-6 on the season and puts Carolina in a difficult position to make the playoffs in a crowded NFC race.

More from Moore

After a slow start to the season, wide receiver DJ Moore has turned on the jets the past few weeks. Moore crossed the hundred-yard mark for the third time in four games on Sunday against the Saints.

Moore’s day started early when he hauled in a 51-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Allen in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his longest play of the day. Late in the third quarter Allen and Moore connected again for a 52-yard catch and run to the New Orleans 20-yard line. Five plays later running back Christian McCaffrey was in the end zone.

Moore’s biggest play was still to come, though. Not in distance, but definitely in importance. With the Panthers trailing 31-24 in the fourth quarter, Allen hit Moore once again for a 2-yard game-tying touchdown.

Moore finished the day with six catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns. That pushed the second-year wideout over the 900-yard mark on the season, making Moore just the third Panther ever to record 900 or more receiving yards through the first 11 games. The other two are Steve Smith Sr. and Muhsin Muhammad.

Over the past four games, Moore has averaged 110.5 yards per game and found the end zone twice.

Second quarter domination

One of the best ways to beat the Saints is by keeping the ball out of Drew Brees’ hands, and the Panthers gave it their best effort during the second quarter.

The Saints had the ball to begin the second quarter and tacked on an early field goal, but then the Panthers took things over. With the exception of a Saints three-and-out midway through the quarter, the rest of the quarter was all Carolina.

The Panthers led the Saints in every offensive category, including first downs (11 to zero), total yards (100 to five), time of possession (11:55 to 3:05), and most importantly, points (9-0).

Much of that domination was due to a massive 17-play drive to close the half that chewed up every bit of the remaining 6:22. On the drive, Allen completed eight of nine passes for 48 yards and a fourth down touchdown pass to McCaffrey as time expired.

By keeping Brees and Co. on the sideline in the second quarter, the Panthers were able to climb back into the game and make things interesting heading into the half trailing 17-15.

A self-inflicted wound on special teams

Midway through the first quarter the Panthers were already trailing 7-0. The Saints marched down the field with ease on their opening possession for a touchdown, but after an offensive pass interference call bailed out the Panthers defense, New Orleans was forced to punt from its own 22-yard line.

The Panthers offense would be set up in good field position with a chance to tie things up. At least, that’s what it looked like would happen.

Carolina has struggled holding on to punts this season, but ever since DJ Moore took over, things have been more reliable. Well, sure hands don’t mean much when your own player takes you out.

After the punt, defensive back Rashaan Gaulden ran into Moore while attempting to block one of the Saints’ gunners. The ball hit then hit the turf and bounced off Gaulden’s calf before being recovered by the Saints at the Panthers 27-yard line.

So much for tying things up. Four plays later, the Saints were in the end zone again with a 14-0 lead.

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