The Carolina Panthers again won most of a game, but lost it when it counted the most.
After punting the ball away to allow a game-tying touchdown drive (and two-point conversion) with 50 seconds left, the Panthers didn’t even touch the ball in overtime, as the Buccaneers came back for a 27-21 win.
All that happened after Ron Rivera again turned his back on a fourth-and-1 opportunity to end the game. And just as at Atlanta earlier this year, the opponent made him look foolish for playing it safe.
It’s the 18th time the Panthers have carried a lead or tie into the fourth quarter under Rivera, and he’s 8-10 in those games.
While the Panthers collapse was stunning, the poise showed by Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers was impressive. He overcame a pair of interceptions to close, and help the Bucs win their fourth straight game to move to 6-4. Freeman was a clean 3-of-3 for 32 yards and the game-winning touchdown to Dallas Clark in overtime.
And it all could have been avoided if Rivera had played it more aggressively.
At the rate the 2-8 Panthers have been firing people after home losses (general manager Marty Hurney, special teams coach Brian Murphy), it’s hard to know if Rivera will ever get a chance to change his mind.