Max Henson Staff Writer
KANSAS CITY, MO. – When it had the ball, the Panthers offense was often on the move.
But for too much of Sunday’s 27-21 loss against Kansas City, quarterback Cam Newton and Co. were on the sideline, standing still.
“The offense played good today,” linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “It would have been better if we could have gotten them the ball more.”
The Chiefs possessed the ball for 37:13. The Panthers had it for 22:47.
Carolina scored three touchdowns on its first five possessions, but due to Kansas City’s control of the clock, that fifth drive didn’t start until the fourth quarter.
“They were able to hold the ball and chew up the clock,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said.
Two Kansas City drives were particularly exhaustive and demoralizing.
The first used the final 7:25 of the second quarter, and several Panthers miscues aided the Chiefs’ progress.
On third-and-2 from the Kansas City 28-yard line, running back Cyrus Gray was held short of the first down marker. But defensive end Greg Hardy was penalized for illegal use of hands for an automatic first down.
Six plays later, Kansas City faced third-and-6 from the Carolina 46-yard line. A neutral zone infraction on defensive end Charles Johnson presented the Chiefs with third-and-1, which Kansas City converted with a 12-yard completion to Dexter McCluster.
“We had an opportunity to make plays,” Rivera said. “We can’t allow them to keep drives alive.”
After an encroachment penalty on defensive tackle Andre Neblett and five more plays, Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki caught a 1-yard touchdown with no time remaining in the first half, allowing Kansas City to take a 17-14 lead into the locker room.
“We’re better than that. We know we’re better than that,” Kuechly said of the costly penalties. “We have to play sound, play smart.”
Then, on its first drive of the second half, Kansas City produced a 17-play, 87-yard scoring drive that ate up 9:56.
Running back Jamaal Charles – who finished with 127 rushing yards – ran six times for 40 yards, and Peyton Hillis converted twice on fourth-and-1. Quarterback Brady Quinn ultimately connected with wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin for a 3-yard score.
“We had situations where we didn’t do a good job fitting the run,” linebacker Thomas Davis said. “We have to eliminate those mistakes. If you don’t, they are going to continue to gash you. And if they continue to move the ball they are eventually going to score points.”
The Chiefs executed a ball-control offense that from the Panthers’ point of view proved painfully effective.
“They did a good job of running the ball. If you can’t get off the field on third down, can’t stop the run, that’s difficult for a defense,” Kuechly said. “When you can’t get off the field, you can’t get the ball back to your offense to score.”