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Epitaph On Panthers’ Forgettable 2016: At Least There Wasn’t Overtime

David T. Foster III
Charlotte Observer
The Carolina Panthers’ 2016 season ended Sunday on a failed 2-point conversion - an incomplete pass to tight tight end Greg Olsen. The Bucs won 17-16. ";

As the Carolina Panthers’ sunken season marched to its inevitable ending Sunday at Tampa Bay, take small solace that coach Ron Rivera chose not to extend it a minute longer.

Down by one with 17 seconds left after (finally) a Cam Newton touchdown pass, Rivera never hesitated in going for 2.

Anyone who watched and followed this team with any regularity knew how it was going to end – if not the specifics, then the sudden, sad result.

The epitaph on the 2016 Carolina Panthers should read: Came close, but not good enough to finish the deal.

When tight end Greg Olsen slipped in his route, Newton’s 2-point pass bounced off Bucs safety Bradley McDougald and Tampa Bay had put Carolina out of its misery, 17-16.

“We were going for it. We didn’t come here to tie and see what happens (in overtime). We came here to win the football game,” Rivera said. “With 17 seconds left, I thought we had a good opportunity. Unfortunately, Greg slipped coming out of the break. The ball was on the money and unfortunately he slipped.”

One upside – and not an insignificant one – of Olsen’s slip is a top-10 pick in the April draft.

For a team that went 15-1 and made the Super Bowl a season ago, it’s a bit disconcerting to think of all of the areas that could be helped with that top-10 pick – a safety, a second tight end, another edge-rusher, an offensive tackle (or two).

The Panthers finished 6-10 – a nine-game difference that tied for the third-worst season-over-season decline since the NFL went to the 16-game schedule in 1978.

They didn’t merely relinquish their reign of the NFC South. They fell to the bottom of the barrel, getting swept by Atlanta (11-5) and Tampa Bay (9-7).

Rivera talked about keeping his staff together the other day, pointing out the same group of coaches was good enough to win 15 games in ’15.

But this kind of fall of grace in the NFL generally costs people jobs.

Sunday’s game wasn’t much different from many of the losses that preceded it.

Newton played poorly, the defense did its part to keep the game close, but the Panthers didn’t make enough plays late to win.