Carolina Panthers coach John Fox said Monday he's not second-guessing himself over the decision to go for a field goal on fourth-and-goal at the Dallas 11-yard line instead of the touchdown with 3:51 remaining in Sunday's 24-20 loss the Dallas Cowboys.
The Panthers converted the field goal and kicked off to Dallas but were unable to get the ball back. The Cowboys picked up two first downs, including one on a facemask penalty by Brentson Buckner.
"I was trying to win the game not tie it," Fox said. "We had plenty of time left in the game if we get them off the field. "We could have gone for seven, but the drive they made we would have lost that way, too. Either way we have to stop them (on defense) and we didn't get it done. We ended up running out of time. If we had got them off the field, we would have had the opportunity to get them off the field."
Fox blamed turnovers and mental mistakes for the loss. "We didn't play smart," Fox said. "We had plenty of turnovers and that's a fact as to why we lost. We also had a lot of penalties and didn't do well in kicking, tackling or blocking."
Or anything else, really. The Panthers (8-3) dropped into a four-way tie for the best record in the NFC with Dallas, Philadelphia and St. Louis. However, given that head-to-head games are the first tiebreaker in determining playoff seeding, Sunday's loss could come back to haunt the Panthers.
"That's why it would have been great to come in here and get a win on the road against a team who is setting themselves up for a nice run also," Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "But we didn't get it done. It's frustrating. It's very frustrating." That may be the best way to describe the Panthers day - frustrating.
The Panthers couldn't run the ball on offense and struggled to stop Quincy Carter on defense. Carter, who came into the game with seven interceptions and two touchdowns in his past four games, picked apart Carolina's defense, completing a career-high 29 passes for 254 yards for two touchdowns.
Offensively, Carolina never established its running game against the NFL's top-ranked defense as Stephen Davis was held to 59 yards rushing, his second-lowest total of the season.
"It's difficult when he's not picking up yardage," said guard Jeno James. "He's our big-play man and if the ball is not moving on the ground, it's bad for us."
Carolina's inability to run the football, in turn, affected the passing game. Delhomme completed just nine passes all day for 175 yards.
Even Carolina's special teams let them down. Rod Smart got things started on the wrong foot by fumbling not once, but twice on the opening kickoff. Carolina also botched a fake punt late in the third quarter.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I would welcome that kind of attack. I think we pretty much knocked their run game in the nose and then they had to go to our short passing game. That is kind of what you're trying to do." -- Panthers coach John Fox, who doesn't appear to be worried about how the Cowboys torched the Panthers with 19 passes to tight ends and running backs on Sunday.