CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – While it may have felt surreal for football fans across the Carolinas to see Cam Newton and Ron Rivera back together again sharing the same space on the same football field at Bank of America Stadium, it didn’t discount the level of excitement before kickoff.

Coming out of the tunnel to a standing ovation from a raucous fanbase that welcomed the former NFL MVP back to the Queen City for the first time since he was signed two weeks ago, Carolina came up short falling 27-21 to the Washington Football Team (4-6).

The Panthers (5-6) let the lead get away in the 3rd quarter when the team’s former quarterback Taylor Heinecke connected on a 4-yard pass with DeAndre Carter for a 21-14 lead. Carolina again showed its chronic 3rd quarter issues, unable to put up any points out of the locker room at halftime.

Pro Bowl RB Christian McCaffrey, back for his 2nd week after a hamstring injury sidelined him for several weeks, caught an impressive, acrobatic 27-yard TD pass from Newton with 10 minutes to play in the 4th quarter, tying things at 21-21.

Another former key Panthers player who departed over the summer, WFT’s kicker Joey Slye, put his team back on top 27-21 with a pair of late field goals with under 5 minutes to play in the game.

A debilitating 15-yard holding penalty against Panthers guard Taylor Moton would set them back on the next series of plays to a 1st and 21 at their own 15-yard line.

The Panthers would gamble big time going for it on 4th & 3 on the very same drive and a Newton pass to McCaffrey came up a yard short of a first down, giving Washington the ball back at the Panthers’ 32-yard line.

Newton kept the energy and momentum going from out of the tunnel to start the game feeding off of the standing ovation. He drove Carolina down the field and punctuated it with a 10-yard TD pass to receiver DJ Moore and a 7-0 lead. Heinecke would respond in the 2nd quarter threading a pass in the red zone to Cam Simms.

Newton finished the game . Heinecke . PJ Walker did not play.

The Panthers return to action next Sunday and travel to face the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m., Fox 46 Charlotte).