The Panthers have lost five consecutive games, but interim head coach Chris Tabor came away pleased with how his newly inherited squad performed down the stretch of Sunday’s 21-18 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Panthers have lost games in basically every form or fashion this season. With 11 losses on the campaign, creating a variety of methods of defeat is an easy feat to accomplish.
But with Tabor taking over as the head man last week, the interim head coach believes the team competed and put itself in a place to win against a division foe, even as the Panthers tried to overcome an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit.
“I think the thing that I was pleased about was when we got down 11 (points), the wheels didn’t come off of the cart,” Tabor said Monday. “And, maybe for a second, and we said, ‘Hey guys, there’s 11:28 left on the clock, there’s a lot of football left. Let’s just kind of keep chopping wood. It might not be the prettiest, that’s okay. Let’s keep playing, give ourselves a chance,’ and the kids did that.”
The Panthers trailed 21-10 with 11:36 remaining in the game. The team hadn’t scored more than 15 points in a game since Week 6, so the chances of them coming up with two scoring drives in crunch time seemed improbable, at best.
But with its back against the wall, the offense — with rookie quarterback Bryce Young leading the way — answered the call to respond to a 19-yard touchdown run by Buccaneers wideout Chris Godwin.
Young led a 75-yard, 11-play drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Chuba Hubbard, who surpassed 100 yards for the first time this season.
Young followed up the touchdown with a successful scramble on a two-point conversion attempt and cut the Tampa Bay lead to three points with 5:02 to play.
“Maybe it doesn’t always look the sexiest, but it was effective and we were doing it, and we gave ourselves a chance,” Tabor said about the scoring drive.
From there, the defense got a stop and prevented the Buccaneers from running out the clock. The offense got the ball back in time to produce a potential game-winning drive with 3:31 left in the fourth quarter.
“I was proud of the guys in that area — that we were trying to find a way to win the game,” Tabor said. “And not just say, ‘We’re down 11, and this is the same old movie.’”
Unfortunately for Carolina, the offense came up short after two failed short-yardage conversion plays — both passes — were capped by a game-clinching interception by the Buccaneers defense.
Despite the way the game ended, Tabor was proud of the effort by his squad. While the Panthers could have folded against a two-score lead, the group tried to rally and put themselves in position to tie or win the divisional matchup.
Yes, the mission wasn’t accomplished, but Tabor said the response to a two-point deficit is something to build on.
“As I’ve said, you can handle things two ways, either with character or compromise,” Tabor said. “I believe in those guys in that room. If you’re going to be a pro, you’re going to do things right. And I know we have to hold them to that level, and I know they’ll respond to that, because that’s who they are.”