Carolina Panthers Coach George Seifert was not in the mood to second-guess himself or game officials last night after his team's 38-36 loss to the Washington Redskins, even though he and the men in the striped shirts clearly had a major impact on the final outcome.
Seifert took umbrage when he was asked why he decided to take running back Tim Biakabutuka out of the game for most of the second quarter after Biakabutuka had ripped off 123 yards and three touchdown runs to give the Panthers a 21-0 lead in the first nine minutes.
"If I made a mistake in the game, I'll be the first to tell you," Seifert said. "The defense was the problem in the second quarter. If you feel as if I should have put Biakabutuka in, you'll report it tomorrow. . . . The problem as I saw it as a coach is that we didn't slow them down as a defense."
Nor did Seifert have a problem with game officials reversing what initially had been ruled a fumble on a punt return by the Redskins' Brian Mitchell with 4 minutes 19 seconds to play. Washington Coach Norv Turner challenged the call, and a review indicated Mitchell's knee was down before the ball came out and was recovered by Carolina's Brian Kinchen.
If the play had not been reversed, Carolina would have had the ball at the Washington 19 and would have been in position to either score or run out the clock. Instead, the Redskins drove 69 yards in 13 plays before Brett Conway kicked the game-winning field goal with six seconds left.
"I don't think the official would have overturned it unless he felt it was a legitimate error," Seifert said. Asked if he was a proponent of using replay, he said: "I am if there's a glaring mistake. If there's a call that's blatantly obvious, I'm for it. . . . It's disheartening, but it happens."
Kinchen said he saw Mitchell's knee go down before he hit him.
"I just assumed he was making a cut and his knee happened to touch," he said. "There definitely was not a whistle. The play was still alive. I made the hit, he fumbled, I'm the hero, and then they take it all away from me. I used to be a supporter of replay. I'm not tonight."
Kinchen and many of his teammates would not second-guess Seifert for benching Biakabutuka after his stunning first quarter. Seifert had said going into the game he planned to alternate him with Lane. Afterward, he said he'd likely do it again in the future.
Last week in Carolina's victory over Cincinnati, Biakabutuka had touchdown runs of 62 yards and 67 yards. Yesterday, he piled up 123 yards on only five first-quarter carries before Lane started the second quarter. The Redskins' defense tightened considerably, allowing Lane only nine yards in four second-period carries and dropping Biakabutuka for a four-yard loss on his only run late in the period.
Biakabutuka, who finished with 142 yards on 12 carries, declined to question his coach's decision to hold him out.
"That is the game plan," Biakabutuka said. "My job is to worry about my carries, not my playing time. Every time I'm on the field, I have to do the best with the playing time I get. . . . I'm not worried about sitting out a quarter. It's my job to be ready when they ask me to go in."
Several veteran Panthers also took the diplomatic approach on Biakabutuka.
"That's not my call," said veteran fullback William Floyd. "I'm not going to make a comment on something like that. Did we do it last week? Did we do it the week before? That's a question for George. I'm a seasoned veteran. Don't ask me."
Offensive lineman Nate Newton also wanted no part of the question.
"You know I'd give you the truth," he said, "but in my position, you know I can't do that right now. Go ask somebody else."