Matt Rhule and the Panthers are still carving out an identity for themselves, but one word that’s already been attached to them is battle. Rhule has said he wants his team to battle. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said they’re going to battle. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes said they battle. Sunday that they did – pushing Kansas City and their potent offense to the brink, before ultimately falling 33-31 to the world champs. But, battling isn’t good enough for Carolina. They want to win.
The Panthers’ offense started the game fast – scoring touchdowns on two straight possessions. The first on 9-yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Christian McCaffey and the second on a 14-yard touchdown run by Curtis Samuel on the short pass from Bridgewater.
Defensively, Carolina held the Chiefs to back-to-back field goals before they were finally able to score on a one-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Demarcus Robinson with 3:45 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Carolina would head to the break with a 17-13 lead.
Kansas City would get it going in the 2nd half – scoring 13 unanswered points. The Panthers would cut the lead to two on a 4-yard Bridgewater rushing touchdown with 10:26 remaining in the 4th, before Mahomes connected with a wide open Tyreek Hill for the 2 yard score with 7:44 remaining – pushing the lead back to nine. Carolina would answer with a one-yard touchdown run by McCaffrey, pulling to within three with 1:55 remaining.
After a failed on-side kick, Kansas City would take over at the Carolina 42 with a chance to seal the win, but a Brian Burns’ sack would push the Chiefs out of field-goal range. The Panthers took over at their own nine yard line with a chance to win the game, but they were unable to advance the ball within realistic field goal range. Joey Slye’s 67-yard field goal attempt would sail wide-right and Kansas City would escape with the 33-31 win over Carolina.
Many would consider pushing the reigning Super Bowl Champions to the brink of defeat a good thing. Especially, for a Carolina squad that came into the season with low expectations, but after the game coach Rhule and Bridgewater said there are no moral victories and coming close isn’t good enough.
“I know our team is extremely disappointed,” Rhule said after the game. “We had every opportunity to win the football game and we did not – coaches, players, staff; not any one person, all of us – we did not make the plays to win the game. We came here to win, we didn’t get it done.”
“We talked about there are no moral victories,” Bridgewater added. “With a game like this you come up short, it’s like man you are able to measure yourself next to the defending champs, but at the same time you don’t want to be satisfied with just coming up short.”
This is the fifth game the Panthers have had the ball at the end of the contest with an opportunity to win or tie. They’re 0-5. Showing fight is good. Having the reputation of being a battler is admiral, but the goal of this franchise is sustained excellence and to do that Carolina is going to have to start putting together winning drives and not just failed attempts.