The Panthers, meanwhile, did many things right, but they also made some of the same terrible mistakes that plagued them last year. A punt return fumble took away a Panthers possession. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a Panthers punt gave the Seahawks good field position that led to a second-half field goal. DeAngelo Williams fumbled in the red zone to kill a Panther comeback. These were the 2012 Panthers, ill-timed turnovers and special teams blunders, back for an encore.
The Panthers coaching staff also took a bow. On third-and-1 at the Seahawks 34, midway through the third quarter, Ron Rivera and Mike Shula took Cam Newton out of shotgun, lined Williams up in the backfield, and executed the most predictable, stoppable off-tackle run imaginable. The Panthers punted, setting up the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that allowed the Seahawks to get their offensive act together. Rivera is perpetually flummoxed by things like short-yardage strategies and when/where to punt/kick/go for it (he also blew a timeout on a challenge that had little chance of succeeding), and Shula appears determined to run away from the things his quarterback does best, like use his rushing ability as a short yardage weapon (or at least decoy).
Basically new year, same Panthers/coaching staff.