It’s one thing to blow a lead on the road against a team that is generally considered to have more talent than you, but it’s entirely something else to lose at home with an extra week to prepare for a team that that by most accounts is inferior.
And it wasn’t just the fact that Denver got the 32-27 win at Bank of America Stadium, but it was more about how the Carolina Panthers played on offense and defense.
Broncos quarterback Drew Lock has put together one of the worst seasons in the league this year, yet against the Panthers, he nearly had a perfect passer rating.
Lock entered Sunday completing just over 58% of his passes and had more interceptions than touchdowns, but against Carolina (4-9), he looked like an All-Pro.
Lock finished 21-of-27 for 280 yards and four touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception.
“He hurt us today with screens and two deep balls,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “Both of those deep balls, to be honest, if we execute (they) shouldn’t happen. …
“We haven’t given up big plays all year and we gave up big plays today. That’s what’s really disappointing. We just have to get better.”
Carolina might have been able to withstand what was literally a career day by Lock had the offense not completely disappeared in the first half. It’s a theme that has become all too common this season for the Panthers, where they look great offensively for a quarter or two but are dismal the others.
For example, Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was 9-of-12 for just 61 yards in the first half. The only reason the Panthers even scored in the first half was because the defense returned a fumble inside Denver’s 3.
Not until the team was down a couple of scores did the offense finally kick into gear, out of desperation.
But once again, the Panthers failed to capitalize on their final drive to take the lead. Carolina is 0-7 when going for the win or tie on its last possession.
This time, Bridgewater threw well short of the first down marker on fourth down and Carolina turned the ball over on downs to give them another one-score loss.
“You look at us throughout the course of the year, we have been coming up short,” he said. “I think it’s just something that we’ve got to improve in.”
So, when the offense is dormant half the game and the defense is struggling to stop the opposition, which has been the case far more times than not this year, it’s a recipe for defeat.
In one of the oddest stats, when the opposition scores more than 22 points, Carolina is 0-9. When the opposition is held to less than 22 points, the Panthers are 4-0.
The moral of that statistic is Carolina has a hard time scoring and a hard time stopping teams.
“We can’t afford to just be out there not doing our job or just having brain (farts),” Panthers defensive back Donte Jackson said. “I wouldn’t say (we have to play) perfect, but I would definitely say we can’t afford to not execute.”