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Red zone woes lead to loss

CHARLOTTE — Carolina’s defense did more than its part Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. It was the offense’s inability to capitalize on scoring chances in the first half Sunday that allowed the Seahawks to come away with a third straight win at Bank of America Stadium.

“If you would have told me we were going to hold them to 13 points, I would have felt pretty good, especially the way the game got moving with us moving the ball,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “We haven’t yet put it all together. Everyone playing well on the same day, we haven’t quite figured that one out.”

This was the third consecutive season the Seahawks made the trip southeast to play the Panthers. It was the third straight year the Seahawks made the return trip to the Pacific northwest with a close victory. The combined margin of victory for those three contests: 13 points.

The losing streak to the Seahawks aside, this was another game in a month that had Carolina (3-4-1) all over the map.

The Panthers got down big early against the Bears only to come back and steal a victory. The Panthers and Bengals battled to a 37-37 tie — the largest combined score in a tie in NFL history — in Cincinnati. Green Bay scored on its first three possessions last week in a total beatdown of the Panthers at Lambeau Field.

Then came the Sunday’s game. The defenses for Carolina and Seattle ruled the day while the offenses did everything they could — it seemed — to avoid winning. In the end, Seattle came up with the drive it needed.

Quarterback Russell Wilson hit tight end Luke Wilson for a 23-yard game-winning touchdown pass up the seam with 47 seconds left in the game.

It was a clutch play the Panthers, try as they might, could not make Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina had three first-half trips to the red zone, and they left all three times with field goals.

“We have to be better,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “We don’t need nobody to tell us that.”

On the first try, Newton was forced to scramble on third-and-11. He got three yards to move the ball to the Seattle 13, and Graham Gano followed with a 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

The second missed chance was a play-action pass from Newton intended for Kelvin Benjamin in the back of the end zone. The ball hit Benjamin in the hands and fell to the turf. The rookie receiver said the defender made a great play on the the ball to force the incompletion. No pass defense was credited on the play. Gano kicked a 26-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead with 13:23 left in the first half.

The third came later in the second quarter with the Panthers ahead 6-3. Newton and Jonathan Stewart were working on a zone-read play from the Seattle 14. The handoff was fumbled, and Seattle’s Cliff Avril was there for the recovery to give the Seahawks the ball.

“In the red zone, we were inept,” Olsen said. “It was embarrassing. …Three red zone drives go the length of the field, and we come away with six points. Sums the game up.”

Contact Sports Editor Adam Houston at 704-797-4287 or follow him at twitter.com/AdamRHouston

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