Cam Newton felt the emotions before.
Overwhelmed with frustrations of a freshly minted 31-17 NFC divisional playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks — the second playoff loss in his young NFL career — there were feelings, however, that were a bit different this time.
It was his first road loss in an atmosphere he’d never experienced before — in Seattle at CenturyLink Field, no less — that ended the Carolina Panthers’ season at 8-9-1.
“We did a bad job of protecting the football,” Newton said. “When you play a great defense you have to take what they give you.”
The Panthers entered the game having won five in a row to not only make the playoffs out of the NFC South (though that didn’t even require a winning record), but also a wild card playoff win a week ago at home against the Arizona Cardinals.
Newton still hasn’t figured out how to beat the Seahawks. The fourth-year quarterback is now 0-4 against Seattle with six turnovers, though the previous three meetings before Saturday all were in Charlotte, North Carolina, including Seattle’s 13-9 victory in Week 8.
But in Seattle, a Panthers team that was within one possession of the defending Super Bowl champions early in the fourth quarter, fell apart in the end.
“At times, you saw a team that wasn’t afraid of the hostile environment, wasn’t afraid of the defense that it was going up against and we stepped up to the challenge and played,” Newton said.
While Newton didn’t play terribly — completely 23 of 36 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns — he had three turnovers.
The momentum changer came inside 7 minutes to go. With first-and-10 at the Seattle 19 and trailing 24-10, Newton threw a bullet to his right but Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor picked it off and returned it 90 yards for a TD.
Instead of what might have been a touchdown to make it a one-possession game again, it was 31-10 Seattle.
Newton pointed to missed opportunities, but also how he’ll learn from his experience.
“One thing we have to learn from this and moving forward is great teams build from these opportunities,” Newton said.