This one turned out eerily similar to the New Orleans game just a month ago, the Panthers dominated the day, the defense did a nice job shutting down the San Francisco offense, until it was time for one last stand. Then, they collapsed.
Quarterback Chris Weinke looked a lot better having sat out the Rams game with that bad shoulder. He hit 22-41 for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns. He had no interceptions. And, give the offensive line some kudos, as they didn't allow a sack. That ended a string of 70 straight games with a sack allowed.
But, it's what the Panthers didn't do in the last two minutes that cost them the game. Actually, one nail was put in by the coaching staff early in the fourth quarter when, following a 24 yard touchdown pass from Weinke to tight end Wesley Walls, for a 19-14 lead, the Panthers went for two. Mathematically, it works, but knowing that this team struggles offensively, why not just kick the extra point and worry about it later if you need to?
As you've no doubt figured out by know, they didn't make it. But, a Brentson Buckner interception deep in San Francisco territory set up John Kasay's third field goal of the day for a 22-14 edge with 1:52 left.
This is where we cue up the New Orleans tape. The defense needed a stop…it's that simple. Instead, they talked themselves out of it. The 49ers converted a 4th and 4 with an 8-yard completion; and a 3rd and 10; and a 3rd and 5 on an illegal use of hands penalty. With 6 seconds left, Jeff Garcia took the snap at the 7 and found Terrell Owens in the corner of the end zone, right over Rashard Anderson. They went for two…and lined up in a formation that confused Carolina…it worked. Overtime.
They really didn't need to play it, the game was over, San Francisco won the toss and drove crisply down the field. They converted a 3rd and 7 and a 3rd and 2 (that time, Garrison Hearst going 31 yards down to the 9). That set up Jose Cortez' game winning field goal. 25-22 San Francisco.
The attitude in the lockerroom was something similar to shock, not believing that this had happened again; that this team found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for the third time this year.