Charlotte, N.C. – Camera Newton was sitting in the locker a few minutes after the game on Sunday, his knees lay on his knees and his arms tightened firmly around the back of his head while looking motionless on the floor.
The MVP in 2015 could not believe how Panthers managed to lose their third game, 30-27 to Seattle Siaux, despite having played so well offensive for most of the game.
"Three weeks ago, if someone said this would happen, I would hit them," Newton said later. "But things are happening and no one will regret us. We just open up a lot of hope for many other teams, and we can not let that happen."
But, Panthers already have.
After Sunday's match, in which Minnesota beat Green Bay 24-17, Panthers (6: 5) were outwardly looking at the NFC playoffs. With the remaining five matches, they watched the Vikings (6-4-1), Redskins (6-5) and Seahox (6-5) in the search for both wild cards.
It would have been hard to imagine three weeks ago for Panthers, who were 6-2 after a 42-28 victory over Tampa Bay on Nov. 4.
The cracks in the armor began to appear on Thursday night in Pittsburgh, when Steelers scared Panthers 52-21.
Carolina watched it with 20-19 wickets on the way to Detroit, when coach Ron Rivera unsuccessfully decided to go on 2 in the last seconds of regulation. On Sunday, Panthers led the Seahawks 27-20 with less than seven minutes after Newton joined the 2-touch touch to Christian McCaffrey.
But a backlash from a late game, a missed goal of 52 yards from Graham Ghano and defensive defeat in the finals, set the stage for a return to Seattle, ending the winning home series in Carolina with 10 matches.
"You are 6-2, and now you have 6-5. I do not know if it's the way someone saw it," said Greg Olsen.
Carolina has a chance to straighten out the next two weeks in Tampa Bay and Cleveland, but has closed the two-match season against New Orleans (10-1), who seemed almost unstoppable for a foul and a game against Atlanta, a team that losses at the start of this season on the road.
"We just have to win one game right now," said Olsen.
Caroline lost her third most practical season on the day the offense took place, as did the entire season.
Christian McCaffrey set off 17 times for 125 meters and a touchdown, catching 11 yards for 112 yards and another score to set a franchise record for total yards from a standstill. He also became Karolina's first player ever to receive 100 yards and 100 meters in a row, while Panthers assembled 476 meters.
Newton was solid, finishing 25 of 30 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns and running for 63 yards on eight vehicles. But two mistakes deep in the Seattle territory seemed big. He cast an interception in the final zone and failed to collect first down the fourth and two races near the goal line at the start of the game.
"I think we have players throughout the terraces and many guys have done a great job today," McCaffrey said. "It's just a matter of finding a way to finish, we played fast and we stay focused and at the end of the match. We have to find a way to win, that's what big teams do."
Caroline's defense is missed.
Defense coordinator Eric Washington allowed 102 points over the past three weeks, while surrendering an average of 387.6 yards per game. They registered four bags during that period and forced only two turnovers.
For the unit that includes the future Hall of Famer in Julius Pippers, along with Luke Kuecchi, Thomas Davis and Cavanaus Short, they are difficult numbers to swallow.
This did not help the Panthers to lose the starting corner Doneck Jackson on the first play from the coffin to the injuries of four and turned to Captain Munnelin and Corn Elder. Both allowed a major hurdle in the fourth quarter.
Rivera's message to the team was to "hold together" and Pipers agreed.
"We can not worry about what happened today," Peppers said. "We can not take care of what everyone else does. We need to take care of ourselves and stick together and move forward."
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