Fowler: When winning time comes, something has to change for Panthers

Frustrated Newton: Close not a winning formula, domination is

sfowler@charlotteobserver.comOctober 22, 2012 

Fourteen points.

Fourteen lousy points. More than anything else – more than the officiating, more than the lack of a pass rush, more than the thousands of Dallas fans who invaded Bank of America Stadium – that was what was wrong with Carolina’s 19-14 loss to the Cowboys Sunday.

The Panthers (1-5) simply can’t score enough. This was the fourth time this season they have scored 14 or fewer points in a game, and not surprisingly they are 0-4 in those games.

And their quarterback, Cam Newton, sounds very frustrated about it. “This taste, this vibe – I’m not buying it, man,” Newton said. “And I don’t know what it is but something’s going to have to change. Something’s going to have to change real fast.”

Don’t blame the officials for Sunday’s loss – even though they made three bad calls, all in favor of the Cowboys, in the game’s final three minutes. It wasn’t like the calls came on called-back touchdown passes. As Newton correctly stated: “We’ve got to take the officials out of the game. There were ample opportunities for us.”

Instead, Newton threw an early interception in the end zone. The Panthers started their first two drives from their own 40 and their own 45 and got nothing out of them.

Said angry wide receiver Brandon LaFell: “Everybody’s saying what they’re going to do. We just need to come out here and make some plays. Play ball and shut up.”

Yes, but how? The Panthers did at least get two offensive TDs in this game – their first two offensive touchdowns of October. But they also failed to move the ball past midfield when trailing 16-14, with two timeouts and 3:25 left. When it came to winning time, once again they lost.

And once again, their running game wasn’t nearly good enough. This time DeAngelo Williams got buried on the bench, but the only effective rushing was done by Newton on scrambles.

When asked about the lack of a running game, Newton said: “I’m not the play caller. ... When we run the football it hasn’t been exciting like we want it to be but you still have to call the plays. It’s kind of putting a strangle on our passing game.

“We’ve got to be more balanced, it’s evident, but the job’s got to get done…. We just find a way to keep the game close and just wait to see what happens at the end. I’m getting tired of it. That’s not a formula to win. Domination is a formula to win.”

But the Panthers haven’t shown they can dominate anyone in the NFL. Far from it. They were dominated themselves by the New York Giants. Their other five games have been one-possession games. They’ve lost four of them.

Newton sounded as frustrated afterward as he ever has following a loss, and that’s saying a good bit. The final question of his press conference was posed by a female reporter, asking him what the Panthers could do to score more points.

“I’m going to leave this room and I’m going to bring in a suggestion box and I want your suggestions to be in that suggestion box because I sure don’t know,” Newton said. “I really don’t. I wish I could tell you. But the only thing I control, sweetheart, is myself. Offensively, I am the leader of this bunch and we haven’t been getting the job done.”

Calling a female reporter “sweetheart” isn’t a good idea in a public forum, even in jest.

But Newton’s larger point is accurate. They haven’t been getting the job done, and a suggestion box sounds about as good as anything else the Panthers are doing as they unsuccessfully try to fix an offense that plays like a shell of the 2011 version.

On defense, the Panthers have been OK most of this season. They were again on Sunday. But on offense, the Panthers have underachieved dramatically. They just don’t know who they are anymore.

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @Scott_Fowler

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