His fumble trying to go over the top on first-and-goal from the 1 in the second quarter played a big role in Carolina dropping to 4-10 with its eighth loss in nine games. A touchdown there and the deficit is cut to 14-10 and this becomes interesting.
Instead, the Packers extend the lead to 21-3 and do what they need to win their 11th game.
Just don’t forget the role offensive coordinator Joe Brady played.
Brady easily could have called for running back Mike Davis to hammer it in even though coach Matt Rhule said he had no problem with the call in general. Davis was averaging over 4 yards a carry at the time and had bulldozed a few Packers along the way.
And as Rhule told the NFL Network’s Melissa Stark at halftime, “I told him from Day 1, we don’t reach the ball across the goal line."
So while many will consider this an indictment of why Bridgewater isn’t a player to lead the Panthers into the future, it also could be an indictment against Brady getting a head-coaching job after one season as an NFL coordinator.
Brady, 31, might one day fulfill the genius predicted after he helped lead LSU to the national title last season and quarterback Joe Burrow to become the top pick of the 2020 NFL draft.
But until he becomes a more consistent playcaller in critical situations, the Panthers won’t become consistent winners and Brady won’t get a head-coaching job.
The Bridgewater call at the goal line is one of several examples this season in which the outcome has been as much the call as the execution. It began in the first game when Brady turned to fullback Alex Armah on a critical fourth-and-1 situation instead of running back Christian McCaffrey.
Three games ago against Minnesota, Brady was late getting the play to Bridgewater near the goal line on a critical red zone play. While Bridgewater chose to rush a third-down play before the two-minute warning last week against Denver, Brady didn’t make it clear Rhule didn’t want to run a play.
Not having McCaffrey for the fifth straight game and 11th in 12 has been a factor for Bridgewater and Brady. It would have been an easy decision to give McCaffrey the ball at the goal line in the second quarter Saturday.
However, complicating it by calling Bridgewater’s number didn’t help.
Troubling trend: As they have done now in eight losses that came down to one possession, the Panthers looked ragged early and then fought back to make it close. They just haven’t matured to the level to finish comebacks.
Quarterback breakdown: Fumble aside, Bridgewater gave Carolina a chance. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 258 yards and had four rushes for 26 yards and a touchdown. He did some nice things, particularly on the 8-yard touchdown scramble. The fumble just overshadowed the good.