Red zone ruins day

CHARLOTTE – Quarterback Cam Newton can't recite his team's statistical performance in the red zone this season, and he isn't interested in rehashing every play called with the Panthers knocking on the door of the end zone.

For Newton, in the aftermath of a heartbreaking loss to the Seattle Seahawks, it wasn't about numbers or names.

It was about an attitude.

"When you get inside the five, you have to scratch, crawl, spit, grip, find a way," Newton said. "We know that, but it has to settle in when we're in the heat of battle.

"There's nobody to point the finger at. It's just about gritting your teeth and saying, 'Look, we've got two yards to go, one yard to go. Come hell or high water, we have to get it.' "

The Panthers couldn't get those precious few yards Sunday, producing a pair of short field goals on a pair of red zone marches and a turnover on a third one.

As a result, what could have been a big lead early wasn't nearly as substantial, and that opened the door for the Seahawks to claim the only lead that mattered – the one they took in the final minute when the lone touchdown for either team gave them a 13-9 victory.

"When you have opportunities, you have to punch it in," head coach Ron Rivera said. "If you don't, this is what is going to happen. It's going to be a tough game all the way through."

The Panthers entered Week 8 ranked 23rd in the NFL in percentage of red-zone drives that ended in touchdowns. They hadn't been satisfied with their 52.2-percent success rate, but they certainly would have taken that Sunday when an 0-for-3 showing dropped them below 50 percent.

Carolina controlled the first quarter, forcing Seattle into a pair of three-and-outs while methodically moving into the red zone twice.

But the first march stalled in large part thanks to a 7-yard loss on an attempted quarterback run on first down from the 15 that got the drive off-schedule. The second drive reached the 1-yard line, but a running play on third-and-goal went backwards.

Two Graham Gano field goals made it 6-0, but when Seattle moved the ball all of 13 yards on its third drive after a kickoff return to nearly midfield, Steven Hauschka drilled a 58-yard field goal to reduce the Panthers' dominant start to a three-point lead.

"It's tight down there in the red zone, so it's about executing the plays," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "We didn't do a good enough job with that today, and the one opportunity they had to put the ball in the end zone, they did. That gave them the victory."

Officially, the Seahawks also were 0-for-3 in the red zone, scoring on a 23-yard pass – three yards outside the red zone – to secure the victory in the final minute. The Panthers got a field goal just outside the red zone, a 48-yarder from Gano for a 9-6 lead with 4:37 to left, but only after coming up empty on two other promising drives.

Carolina's third drive of the game – like the first two – reached the red zone, but the Panthers lost a fumble on first down from the 14 when Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart in effect wrestled for the ball on a zone-read run. And on the opening drive of the second half, facing a third-and-7 from the Seattle 34 where Newton didn't want to get pushed out of field goal range, he avoided a sack but forced an off-balance throw that was intercepted.

"I'm frustrated about the lack of focus on my part and not being smart with the football," Newton said. "Putting the ball up for grabs, that's not winning. Two turnovers, both of them my fault, that can't happen.

"We have to be better. We know that. We don't need anybody to tell us that when we look at the statistics at the end of the game."

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