Panthers put scare in champs but fall short

Joey Slye's 67-yard field goal attempt, which would have won the game, was wide right

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) is knocked out of bounds by Kansas City Chiefs safety Armani Watts (23) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Carolina Panthers put an early scare into the defending Super Bowl champions, but a second half rally led the Kansas City Chiefs past them at Arrowhead Stadium, 33-31.

The Panthers jumped out to a 14-3 lead and were ahead at halftime, but Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw three of his four touchdown passes in the second half as the Chiefs, who made comebacks from early deficits a trademark in their Super Bowl run last year, stormed back.

The game saw Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey return to the field after being out since Week 2 with a high ankle sprain. He scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, to help spark the Carolina offense.

The Panthers fell to 3-6 on the year, while Kansas City improved to 8-1.

Three thoughts

1. The Panthers needed to keep the high-powered Chiefs offense off the field, and the opening drive of the game accomplished that. Carolina marched 75 yards on 15 plays to score a touchdown while taking 8:53 off the clock. The Panthers had nearly a two-to-one advantage in time of possession in the first half.

2. Playing the defending champions on the road, Panthers coach Matt Rhule knew he had to take some gambles to have a chance of winning. The Panthers scored their first touchdown on a fourth-down play and converted another fourth-and-long later in the game to keep a drive alive. Carolina also called a fake punt for the second week in a row, which led to a touchdown, and Carolina attempted a pair of onside kicks in the fourth quarter — one a surprise and the other telegraphed inside the two-minute warning. The kicks were the only thing that didn’t succeed.

3. For the second time in three weeks, Rhule attempted an NFL-record field goal at the end of the game. A potential 65-yarder by Joey Slye to tie the game was short by mere inches against the Saints, and this week, when Carolina’s last-minute drive reached midfield, Rhule called for Slye to attempt a 67-yard game winner. It looked like it had the distance but was far to the right.

Number to Know

9 — The Panthers entered the game as the NFL’s leader with eight drives of 13 or more plays this season. The opening drive of the game pushed that total to a league-leading nine.

They Said It

“That’s a good football team. They’ve battled every single game they’ve been in this year.”

— Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the Panthers

Player of the Game

Teddy Bridgewater, Panthers quarterback —  Sure, McCaffrey scored twice and had 69 yards rushing and 82 receiving on 10 catches, but the veteran quarterback managed the game against the heavily favored Chiefs. He finished with 310 yards on 36-of-49 passing with two touchdowns.

Critical thinking

Clock management is often a problem with new NFL coaches, and Rhule seemed to struggle with it in the game. Carolina’s deliberate pace paid dividends in time of possession on the first drive, but the Panthers also flirted with delay of game frequently and ended up using two of their three timeouts for the half on the drive. At the end of the game, with the Panthers scrambling to get into field goal position in the final minute, Carolina had three straight passes in the middle of the field to use up most of the time remaining.