The Panthers have found ways all season long to lose games. Sunday’s home loss to the Bucs may have been the worst yet.
Carolina fell to 2-8 on the season as they fell in overtime to the Bucs and QB Josh Freeman 27-21. Tampa won the game when tight end Dallas Clark put the final nail in the Panthers coffin with a 15-yard TD grab in overtime.
It should have never come to that, as the Panthers had a number of chances to win the game in regulation.
The Panthers appeared to have the game in hand when QB Cam Newton connected on a 29-yard touchdown strike to Brandon LaFell to go up 21-10 with six minutes left in regulation.
But after a 40-yard field goal by Connor Barth, the Panthers’ offense couldn’t put the game away and had to punt.
Freeman quickly led the Bucs 80 yards on seven plays in 50 seconds, despite not having any timeouts. Along the way, the Bucs benefited from a personal foul penalty on linebacker Thomas Davis for hitting a defenseless receiver.
Freeman finished the drive with a perfectly thrown 24-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson between three defenders with 12 seconds left. He went back to Jackson for a 2-point conversion on a slant route to send it into overtime.
In overtime, the Bucs won the coin toss and moved quickly down the field with Freeman finding an open Clark on a wheel route along the left sideline for the winner.
”You’ve got to love it when the linebacker swears as you’re heading up field,” Clark said with a laugh.
Freeman said it was a play the Bucs worked on all week and he’s glad that was the call.
”When we got to overtime we stepped into the huddle and everybody was ready to go and we started talking like, ‘Hey let’s just execute one play at a time and do our jobs and try to get out of this thing with a touchdown,”’ Freeman said.
The Panthers have lost seven of its last eight. The Panthers held a fourth-quarter lead in five of their last six defeats before fading in the final seconds.
”It’s been the story of our season,” said Newton, who threw for 252 yards and a touchdown to fall to 8-18 as an NFL starter.
When asked where this loss ranked among this season’s meltdowns, Newton snapped, ”I’m not answering no more questions about where this one ranks.”
It ranks pretty high to the fans that were there, as the disgust for what should have been a fun season continues to grow for Panther fans everywhere.