CHARLOTTE — Another tight game, another chance for quarterback Cam Newton to direct a signature, fourth-quarter drive, another opportunity for the Panthers to take a step forward.
Newton lost a pair of turnovers and couldnt connect on a fourth-down throw to Louis Murphy in the final minutes Sunday as the Panthers fell to Dallas 19-14 in front of a Bank of America Stadium crowd that included thousands of Cowboys fans.
The Panthers (1-5) have dropped four in a row, the past three by five points or fewer. Dallas (3-3) snapped a two-game skid and has won nine consecutive regular-season games against Carolina.
The way it unfolded was all too familiar for veteran left tackle Jordan Gross, who tied a Panthers record with his 141st career start.
Someone said deja vu, and thats what it is. Its a different team, but the same scenario, Gross said. Theyre a good team. Theyre kind of in the same point in their season that we were with a must-win game.
Preseason playoff talk looks misguided, but linebacker Thomas Davis isnt giving up the dream.
Even being where we are right now were a 1-5 team everything that we set for us to do is still there. You may not believe it, but we believe it, Davis said. Right now that window is definitely closing on us, so weve got to do it fast.
The Panthers had the ball on their 20, down 16-14 with 3:25 left. Newton hit Louis Murphy for 11 yards and a first down, and a completion to Steve Smith left the Panthers with a fourth-and-1 at their 40.
Newton hurried the offense to the line, and center Geoff Hangartner snapped the ball while the Cowboys were scrambling to get the right personnel on the field. With two officials throwing flags for Dallas having too many men on the field, Newton hit tight end Greg Olsen for first-down yardage.
But officials said Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan called a timeout before the snap, wiping out the play to Olsen. Panthers wideout Brandon LaFell, who was on the Cowboys side of the field, said he didnt hear them yelling for a timeout until he was in his route.
You cant call a timeout once the ball is snapped. Theyve been doing that the whole game and the ref wasnt giving them no timeouts and on that particular one the ref gave it to him, LaFell said. Its crazy because the referees on that sideline threw two flags. So it dont make sense.
Following the timeout, Newton threw incomplete for Murphy, who had single coverage from Morris Claiborne. Replays showed Claiborne hitting Murphy in the back before the ball arrived. But no flag was thrown, and Dallas took over with 2:08 remaining.
He kind of hooked me and pushed me in the back before the ball got there, Murphy said. But its a fast game. The refs do the best they can.
A questionable horse-collar tackle on linebacker James Anderson set up Dan Baileys fourth field goal a 38-yarder with 53 seconds left.
On their last snap and on the 30th anniversary weekend of the Cal-Stanford Play the Panthers tried a hook-and-ladder to Olsen. But on the third lateral, Newtons pitch was picked up by Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware near midfield, and that ended it.
Its tough to fault Newton for that fumble. But his first turnover was a killer an interception by Claiborne in the end zone on second-and-goal from the 6 midway through the second quarter.
Newton was trying to throw the ball away, but nosetackle Josh Brent came through the middle of the line and hit Newton as he released it.
I was just trailing a man and thank God the D-line got there and put some pressure on the quarterback and made him do some things he didnt want to do with the ball, Claiborne said.
Newton was coming off one of the worst games of his career in a 16-12 loss to Seattle on Oct. 7. After completing just 12 of 29 passes against the Seahawks, Newton was 21 of 37 against the Cowboys for 233 yards, with a 5-yard touchdown pass to LaFell.
Newton also ran for 64 yards on six carries the fourth time in six games he has led the Panthers in rushing.
Running back DeAngelo Williams spent most of the game on the bench. His two carries were his fewest since 2007.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said a lot of the reason for Williams light work was based on personnel groupings.
Carolina gained 328 yards against the leagues second-ranked defense. But for the third consecutive game, it failed to make plays with the game on the line.
Theres no fingers to point, Newton said. I think you can go around the locker room and expect more out of each and every person, number by number, including myself. So thats whats got to happen.
For the second game in a row, the Panthers gave up one touchdown. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo played his first turnover-free game of the season, completing 24 of 34 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers never sacked Romo, and only pressured him a couple times.
But this loss fell on the shoulders of the offensive players and coaches.
Weve tried everything. Weve tried running the ball more, weve tried passing the ball more, we just havent been able to click, LaFell said. Our first two possessions, we had great field position. And whatd we do? Nothing.
Offense has to step up, man, LaFell added. Me included, all these guys, we have to quit talking. Everybodys saying what theyre going to do, we just need to come out here and make some plays. Play ball and shut up.
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