In Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game, the Carolina Panthers survived with a 31-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks despite the fact Carolina led 31-0 early in the third quarter. Sure, the Seahawks are a great team and leads sometimes slip, but this isn’t new for the Panthers.
In Week 8, they led the Indianapolis Colts 23-6 in the fourth quarter but had to hold on for a 29-26 overtime victory.
In Week 9, they led the Green Bay Packers 27-7 in the third quarter but had to hold on for a 37-29 victory.
In Week 13, they led the New Orleans Saints 27-16 in the third quarter but had to hold on for a 41-38 victory.
In Week 15, they led the New York Giants 35-7 in the third quarter but had to hold on for a 38-35 victory.
In other words, Carolina has nearly choked on big second-half leads in five of its last 11 games. The team’s only throat-stomping victory over a winning team during that stretch came against Washington.
Amazingly, the Panthers were one of only four teams in the NFL to give up 14 or more points in the fourth quarter on four or more occasions.
In the first half this season, the Panthers scored a league-high 266 points and allowed a second-to-league-low 121. Their points differential at halftime was a league-best plus-145. Carolina’s offense was nearly as efficient in the second half (ranking third with 228 points), but it allowed 184, which ranked in the middle of the pack.
Only nine teams scored fewer fourth-quarter points than the Panthers, who ranked in the top four in football in every other quarter.
Carolina’s scoring margin by quarter, including the playoffs (per-game averages in brackets):
1st quarter: +43 (+2.5)
2nd quarter: +133 (+7.8)
3rd quarter: +37 (+2.2)
4th quarter: -17 (-1.0)
So entering Sunday’s conference title game against the Arizona Cardinals, it’s fair to wonder if the Panthers have a closing problem.