The NFC wild-card game Sunday began with Cam Newton seeing a pass go right through the hands of an open receiver in the end zone. It ended with Newton under a pile of Saints pass rushers on fourth-and-23 with six seconds left.
That happened one play after another receiver seemed to misjudge a catchable pass in that same end zone — which happened one play after an intentional grounding call in the face of another ferocious rush.
All of which happened after Newton was either concussed earlier in the fourth quarter, or he wasn’t.
MORE: What we learned from the Panthers' loss to the Saints
That’s no way for the Panthers’ season to end, for their playoff game to end, or for another year of Newton’s career to end. On the other hand, this is what the Panthers created, and it’s what they gave Newton, the cornerstone of the franchise, so in a sense it’s exactly how it should have ended.
In the wake of that season-ending 31-26 defeat, there are only so many times one can ask whether the Panthers want Newton to just win by himself, if it’s some kind of game they’re playing to see how little help they can get away with giving.