The following is my take-away from the latest "defeat from the claws of victory."
The Panthers have possession and offensive momentum, up by three with 5+ minutes to go, and they decide to burn the clock. I'm cool with that decision, and it worked beautifully until... we hit the dreaded 4th down in field goal range. Decision made... take the 3 and let the defense do the work. Hell, I think they should have at least attempted a pass on third down, but still I'm okay with the decision to make it a 6-point lead ... IF you take all other factors into consideration.
Foremost among the factors to consider is the decimated secondary. Godfrey - OUT, Melvin White, Josh Thomas, Norman, Mikell - all OUT! So, can we stop a mobile QB, who happens to be a rookie, from beating us. My answer would be yes, but not by playing a prevent defense. The defensive strategy with a six-point lead and a totally mangled secondary means what? Linebackers have to play their arses off trying to cover opposing receivers. The result is embedded forever in my brain (not really):
The defense gives up yardage, allowing the Bills to get to the Panthers' 30 yard line. Luke Kuechly, who otherwise played a great game, committed a blatant pass interference in the final moments, putting the Bills inside the 10 yard-line. The final play was just the icing on a very poor, coach-baked cake (lot's of cake metaphors going around, so thought I'd join in. I like cake).
It boils down to this... If you're going to take stay conservative on offense by taking the three, then you'd better dam'd well take a highly aggressive defensive approach, given the secondary situation. The Panthers should have been blitzing from everywhere on the final drive. It's the second game for a rookie QB, so rattle his cage. You just can't play prevent defense with the secondary we were working with at the time.
It's this dis-jointed decision making by the Head Coach that has finally turned this Rivera-Hopa into a Rivera-Hata. No risk, no reward = 0-2 Panther start for 2013.