The Carolina Panthers’ final realistic shot to extend the season came with 19 seconds left in today’s Wild Card game against the Saints. On 3rd and 23 from New Orleans’ 34, Cam Newton lofted a pass toward Devin Funchess in the near corner of the end zone. It fell incomplete.
— Bleacher Preacher / Sports (@BleachrPreachr) January 8, 2018
Had Funchess been able to make the play, Carolina is marching to the next round. But he didn’t — and it’s not a stretch to say that he didn’t show much determination in fighting for the ball against the smaller Vonn Bell.
This would have been biggest play of Funchess’ life and one of the biggest in Panthers team history. And it was treated with all the urgency of a play in the third preseason game.
Funchess, for his part, offered this explanation: he lost it in the lights.
Now, to be fair, Funchess was playing hurt. He’s been battling a shoulder for weeks and appeared to sustain some sort of leg injury early in today’s action. Perhaps those who are decrying the effort are being too harsh. It’s certainly not the reason why Carolina is going home — though it could have changed all that.
In the end it was just one thing in a mountain of things that left New Orleans the victory and the Panthers the vanquished. Still, it must be tough for Panthers fans now who are wondering if it all came down to inopportune stadium lighting and a matter of inches.