CHARLOTTE – The Panthers offense was rolling.
They had reached the end zone on their last two drives, and even though Seattle had tied things up at 27-27 late in the fourth quarter, Carolina quickly moved the ball into Seahawks territory with three Cam Newton completions before the two-minute warning.
But that break in the action seemed to break the Panthers’ stride. At that point, Carolina stalled. Kicker Graham Gano was eventually forced to come on for a 52-yard field goal, which he missed. The Seahawks then took the game with a game-winning field goal of their own as time expired.
“Having the ball into the two-minute warning tied, and to lose in regulation, that’s crazy,” tight end Greg Olsen said, his frustration apparent. “Just a brutal way to end the game.”
Here’s a closer look at the three plays that preceded Gano’s ominous miss.
First-and-10 at Seattle 40
Newton takes the shotgun snap and keeps it up the middle here, gaining three yards before he’s brought down by defensive tackle Jarran Reed. Not a great play by any means, but a perfectly fine one on first-and-10 and the Seahawks then burned a timeout.
Second-and-7 at Seattle 37
Defensive end Frank Clark, the Seahawks’ sack leader with 10 on the year, was held in check for the most part on Sunday, but he makes a huge play here.
Clark uses an inside move to get the better of right tackle Taylor Moton and pressure Newton, who is flushed out of the pocket and forced to throw the ball away for just his fifth incompletion on the day. Olsen was open on the right, but Newton never saw him with the pressure in his face.
Third-and-7 at Seattle 37
Newton takes the shotgun snap and the protection (with the help of running back Christian McCaffrey) holds up against Seattle’s five-man rush. But there aren’t many options. Olsen and wide receivers Curtis Samuel and Jarius Wright are well covered. The only option (perhaps by design) is wide receiver DJ Moore, who runs a crossing route well short of the marker and is unable to shake free from cornerback Tre Flowers. It's a gain of three, which leads Rivera to send out the field goal unit.
We all know what happened from there.
“There are a lot of things we wish we would have done,” Newton said. “But things happen and nobody is going to feel sorry for us.”