If you’re a Carolina Panthers fan, Sunday’s loss to Buffalo looked way too familiar. Carolina held the lead late and had ample opportunities to seal the deal but just weren’t able to get the job done. Unfortunately, this has become a staple of a Ron Rivera coached team.
The Panthers were unable to convert two late Bills turnovers into touchdowns, instead settling for field goals. One drive started on Buffalo’s 16 and the other on the Buffalo 26. If either of those two possessions had been touchdowns, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation. Rivera’s game management once again came into question, after electing to go for a field goal on fourth and one from the Buffalo 21 yard line. The Graham Gano field goal gave Carolina a six point advantage at 23-17, just one point shy of putting the game a touchdown and extra point away.
Instead, EJ Manuel, playing in just his second career NFL game, drove the Buffalo offense 80 yards for the winning touchdown in the final 1:48 with no timeouts. It was the 10th time under Ron Rivera the Panthers have lost the game when leading in the fourth quarter. Rivera on Monday spoke about how important it was for his team to find a way to close games. “..It’s time to get over the hump. We’ve done this before. We’ve been through this and that’s the thing that’s disheartening. You’d like to believe that we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve learned from these things and now it’s about getting these things done.”
Minus all of the normal coach speak, Rivera hits on the key point. You would think after being on the doorstep so many times, the team would have eventually learned from or become frustrated enough by their mistakes that they would have corrected them. Where does the true blame lie? Only the coaches and players know the true answer.
So where do the Panthers go next? They face a team this Sunday at home who is also winless in the league, the New York Giants. Bottom line, someone will emerge from this game with their first NFL victory and maybe some optimism while another team will take another nosedive down to 0-3. This game will be crucial for Ron Rivera’s job status as the Panthers will have a bye week during week 4 following the Giants game. If the Cats are to make a move with Rivera, expect one to come during the bye week to ease the transition for an interim head coach. Carolina owner Jerry Richardson showed last season he is not opposed to making mid season changes like he did last season firing long time general manager Marty Hurney, after a 1-5 start.