By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer
Ron Rivera didn’t expect it to last just one play. One disastrous play that created a most awkward of beginnings, and defined the Panthers’ 40-7 blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
“We didn’t lose this game because of a tie,” Newton said. “It was a lot of execution errors. Including a lot of things where we had our opportunities and we failed at it.”
The Panthers’ first offensive play ended up being a pass by Derek Anderson that deflected off Mike Tolbert’s hands and into the arms of linebacker Mike Morgan, but that play didn’t cost Carolina the game. The turnover only led to a field goal for Seattle, but it was the start of an otherwise forgettable performance by the Panthers that provided another blow to the dwindling playoff hopes of the reigning NFC champions.
The bigger culprit was the 240 yards rushing allowed by the Panthers’ defense and Carolina’s inability to finish drives in Seattle territory. That’s what turned the seventh meeting in the past five years between the teams into a laugher for the Seahawks.
“We just didn’t give ourselves the chance. That’s the disappointment,” Rivera said. “We had some opportunities. We missed some plays. Probably the toughest thing is the lack of discipline and being where you’re supposed to be.”
But the flap about the tie and Newton’s one-play benching became an overbearing cloud hanging over Carolina’s performance.
“I made the decision not to start him after I learned of the infraction,” Rivera said. “It was going to be one series. I didn’t anticipate the series lasting one play.”
Newton was punished because he did not have a necktie for the team flight to Seattle. The Panthers spent the past week in the Bay Area following their game at Oakland and made the trip up the West Coast on Friday.
Newton said he realized he hadn’t packed a shirt and tie just before the buses left to take the team to their flight.
“We discussed it internally. Me and coach, we’re on the same page, I feel good about it,” Newton said. “I wore a similar outfit like this before and nothing was done. But he has rules in place and we have to abide by them and no person is greater than the next person. It is what it is.”
Some teammates, though, didn’t realize the situation until the Panthers took the field and Anderson was calling the first play. Right tackle Trai Turner, playing the position for the first time since high school, said he didn’t know what was going on until the opening play.
“Coach already addressed it. I’m not going to talk any more about it,” Anderson said. “It’s over with, we addressed it as a team and we’re going to move on from it.”
Newton missed just one play, but was also just 14-of-32 passing for 182 yards and one touchdown. After pulling within 10-7 in the second quarter, Carolina let Seattle score the final 30 points.
Newton agreed he believed he was made an example of with the punishment, but did not express disagreement with Rivera’s decision.
“I think there was a lack of communication on my part,” Newton said. “I think I have to be accountable to know certain things.”