A Game of Inches

The Panthers keep coming up with new ways to lose as their skid reached an overall club record 10 games with a 10-7 loss to Atlanta. Twice on 4th and inches, in crucial situations, the Panthers came up short.

The offense's inability to convert short situations wasted an outstanding effort by the defense, as they held Chris Chandler to just 132 yards passing. In fact, take away the Falcons scoring drive (99 yards, including a 53-yard run by former Panther Bob Christian) and it was a pretty good day.

From the Panthers standpoint, the offense failled on most occasions. They were given decent field position on numerous occasions, and couldn't covert.

The worst offense was in the second quarter, after Falcons punter Chris Mohr (who had a career-ending type day) boomed a 24-yarder to their own 31. The Panthers ran the ball on the first four plays, then Chris Weinke hit Donald Hayes down to the one. Weinke missed Kris Mangum on first down, Brad Hoover came up short on second going up the gut, Richard Huntley tried wide right on third and was short, then, Huntley went wide left on fourth and was stopped short by Keith Brooking. It was one of those times, that despite being down 3-0, no one questioned going for it on fourth and one foot. And, it was hard to find anyone in the lockerroom who criticized the play call on fourth down of going wide instead of trying a quarterback sneak or something else up the middle.

The Panthers didn't get on the board until the fourth quarter, when they put together a 10 play, 78 yard drive that ended with Weinke scrambling 12 yards for the touchdown to cut it to 10-7.

Following another Mohr sky-scraper (this one 10 yards) it looked as if the Panthers might have seized momenteum. On a third and 10 from their own 46, Weinke hit Patrick Jeffers who fought for the first down marker, but came up about an inch short. On fourth down, Weinke slipped right and surged forward, appearing to get the first down. But, the spot was horrible and the Panthers turned the ball over, about one foot short.

Now, George Seifert started a series of questionable calls, by calling a time out, hoping that the officials in the replay booth would take advantaged of the "inside the last two minutes" review of the call. In other words, he wasted a time out with the clock already stopped. After the game, he admitted that, in hindsite, he wouldn't have done that.

The Panthers did stop Atlanta, but with just two time outs available, the clock was down to 47 seconds. Thinking that they could rattle Mohr one more time, the Panthers chose to rush 11 men on the punt. The ball hit at the 15 and rolled down to the two, taking, by my count, an extra 7 seconds off of the clock. On the third play, with 17 seconds left, Weinke threw a game-ending interception.

So, once again, the Panthers found a way to lose a winnable game. It's their 10th straight loss, and 5th by a touchdown or less. In fact, it's the 5th time in 7 games, they've lost by a touchdown or less. And, once again, we get to have a field day as to some of the calls that could have made a difference.

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