Last Second Loss Spoils Comeback

<P>If it's true that good teams find a way to win games, then the Panthers are a bad team. They rallied from a 17-0 first half deficit to take the lead by 5 with 1:44 to go. New Orleans stood 82 yards from the end zone and had just one time out left. Final score: New Orleans 27, Carolina 25.

To get to that final drive, the Panthers had to rally from one of the worst halves in team history. They fell behind the Saints quickly 17-0. Rookie quarterback Chris Weinke looked every bit of it, throwing an interception and losing two fumbles. The Saints' offense didn't have to do a lot of get that lead, driving a total of 61 yards. Tight end Cam Cleeland pulled in both touchdown passes.

Critics will really question a decision by the Panthers coaching staff that followed that. The Panthers got great field position following an interception by Doug Evans at the 13. From the 5 on a 4th and 2, the Panthers decided to go for it, rather than put some points on the board to start the comeback. A fade pattern to Donald Hayes never had a chance. In hindsite, look what a different those three points would have made.

At the half, Weinke was 7-20 for 71 yards with an interception and two fumbles.

Before the half though, the Panthers did get a pair of field goals on the board, and those would prove to be important as the game wore on. Like, on the Panthers first touchdown when Chris Weinke hit Donald Hayes from 9, it made the score 17-12, and the Panthers went for two. They were just following the two-point conversion book. It failled.

Then, again in the fourth quarter, they went for another two-point conversion after a Wesley Walls touchdown catch of 23 yards (they were down 20-18)...once again they failled.

With the offense finally clicking and the defense doing a nice job containing the Saints, the Panthers felt pretty good about things when they forced a punt with under two minutes left. They felt even better when rookie Steve Smith brought it back 70 yards to give Carolina a 25-20 edge.

This is where we return to the beginning of our story. 82 yards from the end zone, one time out left and 1:44 on the clock.

Aaron Brooks throws for 11, throws for 11 plus a 5-yard face mask penalty, Brooks throws it right into the hands of Panther cornerback Doug Evans...he drops it. 4th and 10 from their own 45, Brooks hits for 14 yards, Brooks runs for 14, throws for 22 and spikes it. It's now second and goal from the 5 with 14 seconds left. Panthers offsides, second and goal from the 2 with 10 seconds left. Pass interference on Mike Minter, first and goal from the 1 with 10 seconds left. Incomplete pass. One second left. (Who is running the clock?) Ricky Williams sweeps left...the Panthers don't stop him. Good teams find a way to win games, bad teams find a way to lose them. With a win in hand, the Panthers defense gives up their longest drive of the game, committing 3 penalties along the way, dropping a piece of cake interception and giving up 14 yards on a 4th and 10.

Instead of heading to Washington at 2-3 next week, they're now 1-4 and mired in a four game losing skid.

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