The Seahawks and the Panthers don’t play until a little after 4 today here, and that’s probably a good thing as it has rained on and off – sometimes heavily – since about 7 last night. The forecast for this afternoon is cloudy w/ a high of 60 degrees but only up to a 20% chance for rain, so this will give the field a chance to dry out a little.
Needless to say, the Panthers (1-3) are hoping for a rebound this week against the Seahawks (2-2) after a heartbreaking loss to the Falcons last Sunday. If you watched the game, you know that Panthers coach Ron Rivera had the opportunity to go for a first down – at 4th and 1 on the Atlanta 45 yard line with less than two minutes to play. A first down would have sealed the deal and the Panthers could have taken a knee the rest of the game and walked off the field with a morale boost being at 2-2. But he didn’t, and our defense did their usual crumble thing with 59 seconds to play and gave the Falcons all the room they needed to get close enough to kick the game-winning field goal.
Of Rivera’s decision, Charlotte Observer sports columnist Scott Fowler wrote the next day:
The Panthers had a number of high-profile mistakes on the field Sunday in their 30-28 loss to Atlanta — a loss that I believe will scar this team for the rest of the season, as I wrote in this column. (After listening to Ron Rivera on Monday, too, I am pretty convinced that Haruki Nakamura will be benched for Sunday’s game vs. Seattle.)
But there were also two big mistakes made by head coach Rivera and his coaching staff in my opinion.
The most important was at the end of the game when Rivera didn’t go for it on fourth and 1 at the Atlanta 45, instead punting to Atlanta and giving the Falcons one more chance to win. He said after the game he might have gone for it on fourth-and-inches (the ball was originally marked closer to the first-down line after a Cam Newton fumble that the Panthers recovered) but never seriously considered it on fourth and one.
Why? “Because if you don’t get it right there, they only have to go 30 yards to try a field goal and that’s why we decided to punt,” Rivera said. The punt then was downed at the Atlanta 1, where the Falcons began with 59 seconds left and no timeouts.
Rivera’s players stood behind him for that call. (ESPN’s stats department did not, though, saying Panthers actually went against the percentages there based on this excellent blog item from Pat Yasinskas). But even as it was happening the pressbox I was shaking my head. Why not win or lose the game with your strength (offense) instead of counting on your weakness (defense) to win it for you?
Yours truly was in 100% agreement, and in fact in “real time” during the game I was screaming for Rivera to give the O-line a chance to make it happen. He didn’t, and it’s been a bone of contention this week between Panthers fans ever since.
Hopefully the Cats can erase the bad memory of last week’s loss with a win this week. The game will be broadcast at 4:05 PM ET on Fox in this area.
An important side note: Please keep Panthers player Greg Olsen and his pregnant wife and their two unborn twins (boy/girl) in your prayers. She goes for a C-section delivery on Tuesday morning. The baby boy has a heart defect and will immediately have to have surgery. The Charlotte Observer has the story here. May God bless them all.
My office pool picks for this week:
Texans (38 points total)
Had a pretty good week last week – four losses. Hoping to improve this week and actually be in the running for the first time this season.