The Carolina Panthers have blown yet another game in which they controlled the score until late in the fourth quarter.
Playing on the road Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York, the Panthers lead the Bills 23-17 with less than a minute to play after head coach Ron Rivera opted to go for a 39-yard field goal on fourth-and-one from the Bills’ 21-yard-line.
The Panthers would then kickoff for a touchback and allow rookie quarterback EJ Manuel to drive eighty yards and throw a game-winning touchdown with only two seconds left on the clock.
Rivera has now blown ten fourth quarter wins during his tenure as Panthers head coach – which is largely responsible for his 13-21 career record.
While it’s not fair to put all the blame on Rivera for this one game, the Panthers clearly have not been meeting their potential from last season up to this point.
Management is where this writer points the blame. What exactly is General Manager Dave Gettleman’s plan to utilize his current franchise quarterback, who has yet to be offered a contract extension. Gettleman seems to desire a pure pocket passer over the likes of “Superman” based on the emphasis on the passing game so far this season.
Another question to be asked is this: When are the Panthers going to add pieces to support Cam Newton? Every season it seems Carolina fans are looking for that second wide receiver to compliment Steve Smith. So far the best the Panthers have managed to acquire has been Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards, Ted Ginn, and Legedu Naanee. The offensive line has also been badly neglected – with only three linemen taken in the past three drafts (and only one selected higher than the sixth round).
The Panthers defense has shown tremendous improvement under Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. In fact the defensive line has never looked better except when future Hall-of-Famer Julius Peppers was stalking quarterbacks at Bank of American stadium. Carolina’s linebackers are finally all healthy – with Luke Kuechly blossoming into a tackle machine at middle linebacker.
The Panthers surrendered only 12 points in Week One to a Seattle Seahawks squad which looked like the most complete team in the National Football League on Sunday night – but that, too, was a game Rivera’s squad should have won.
There is a lot of blame to go around in Carolina and sadly Rivera will be the one that must take it but, if the Panthers could just close out games, they might be able to salvage his job – and their 2013 record.
Reece Funderburk is a fantasy sports blogger. Follow him on Twitter @TheSMBlitz.