TAMPA, Fla. – Center Ryan Kalil didn't have much of a voice left, still hoarse after barking out calls during the 24-17 loss to the Buccaneers.
But the team captain spoke his mind when reporters approached him in the locker room following Carolina's fourth consecutive defeat.
"We have a discipline problem in critical situations," Kalil said.
Kalil expanded on the issue.
"Understanding the concepts, not trying to make stuff up on the fly – in all three phases. Being disciplined in your techniques, not getting holding penalties, simple things. Third-and-we have to win the game, that's when we have to have our best pass sets from an offensive line standpoint. That's all discipline," Kalil said.
"It's not a talent problem."
The blowout loss to Pittsburgh aside, the Panthers have been in position to win time and time again during this skid. But miscues have occurred at the worst times, and in a league where games are often decided by a handful of plays, those mistakes are glaring.
Carolina's offense got the ball back four times in the fourth quarter of a one-score game. Newton was intercepted on the first two possessions. Then he missed wide receiver Devin Funchess on fourth down before the final series ended with an incomplete Hail Mary from quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who stepped in due to Newton's sore throwing shoulder.
It was a fourth quarter full of pivotal moments for the offense, and the execution simply wasn't there.
"That's on us as older players not doing a good enough job teaching the young guys how to be pros, how to be disciplined in critical situations," Kalil said. "That's what's showing up."
Kalil, like several others, insisted the onus is on the players. He said the coaches have addressed these in-game discipline issues. The players have to apply the corrections.
"A lot of what's going on this year is a player-driven, performance-driven problem," said tight end Greg Olsen, who is likely done for the year after re-injuring his foot. "At this level, players, including myself, there is a lot we can do to overcome things and change the results on the field."
The results haven't changed.
The Panthers, once sitting pretty at 6-2, are now 6-6 with the postseason picture looking more and more grim with each passing week.
"It's not a lack of caring, it's not guys quitting. Guys are playing as hard as you can play," Kalil said. "There is a difference between playing hard and playing smart. We're just not doing it, especially in critical situations."