Admittedly, this is MY list of the Best 10 Plays of 2011; there may be others that some might feel deserve inclusion, but I narrowed it down subjectively, as best I could. For me, it was tough not to include Greg Hardy's Sack for a Safety, in game 3, v Jacksonville; or Andre Neblett's fabulous show of hustle, to trail a play 30 yds downfield, from his play responsibility at the LOS, and recover a fumble, v the Bucs in wk 16.
So I've arranged these favorites in chronological order, in Poll fashion, to see what the readership favors.
(After consultation with BW, I've found that it's difficult or impossible to attach GIF images from NFL.com videos, so for those who want to see the plays again, I've added links, where possible. Frankly, I didn't imagine just how many minutes would be spent, enduring NFL.com ads :-)
Have fun, in reliving all the highlights of a turn-around season - and imagine that this is only the beginning of a return to prominence for the Panthers in the NFL. Let me know your comments about all this.
The list of plays can be found after the jump...Wk 1, @ Arizona: Steve Smith's 77-yd TD reception (7:11, 1Q), to tie the score in the opener. He caught 8 balls, for 178 yds, in a game in which Cam Newton threw for 422, signaling a bright new era for the Panthers. (This was Cam Newton's 1st TD pass in the NFL.)
Wk 5, v N.O.: Steve Smith's 54-yd TD reception (2:52, 1Q), the play in which Smith got clocked in the EZ by cheap-shot artist Roman Harper, ending in a scuffle which saw the mercurial Smith attempting to behead another Saint defender. (Also note the blitz pickup block by Jonathan Stewart, and Smith's abuse of Jabari Greer.)
Wk 5, v N.O.: DeAngelo Williams 69-yd TD run (3:47 2Q), on an option toss, evading 3 tacklers. He finished with 9 carries, for 115 yds, in a game which we were winning vs the Division champs, until the final minute.
Wk 7, v Washington: Jerry Richardson, pre-game. Here I quote Scott Fowler, from the Charlotte Observer:
"I saw both these owners in the pregame. The Panthers' Jerry Richardson was pleasantly working the crowd from his golf cart, as he often does. When I saw Richardson, he was near the East Gate, chatting with a young boy.
The Redskins' Daniel Snyder, meanwhile, had a phalanx of security guards as he rolled quickly
through the press box before kickoff."
(Note: here I could've chosen JR's 81 mile drive to attend the funeral of a Panther ticket-holder he'd never met...but you get the idea. I just see him as the best owner in the league, and for so many reasons.)
Wk 11, V Detroit: Kealoha Pilares' 101-yd KO return for a TD (13:50, 2Q), helped by several superb blocks by Special Teams. It was the first score by a Panther on a KO return in 8 years.
Wk 12, @ Indy: Sherrod Martin's balletic Interception, in the EZ, in the final minute, with Indy trailing by 8, and with 2nd and goal at our 2, where a TD and 2-pt conversion would've tied the game. It sealed the Panthers' first road win in 2 years.
Wk 13, @ Tampa Bay: (5:40, 1Q) Legadu Naanee's 27-yd completed throwback pass to Cam Newton, who, but for a missed block by Jordan Gross, would've scored. This, and other trick plays to come, showed that OC Chudzinski's playbook was opening wide.
Wk 15, @ Houston: Richie Brockel's "Chudrooskie" TD (:55. 2Q), which put us ahead 21-0, on the road, against a heavily-favored, playoff-bound team. Every Panther on the field played his part to perfection, for the complete deception required to make this play work. This is the definition of misdirection.
Wk 16, v Tampa Bay: Brandon LaFell's 91-yd TD reception (a Panther record) (13:06, 2Q), aided by Steve Smith's hustling downfield disruptions on 3 Buc defenders.
Wk 16, v Tampa Bay: Cam Newton's 49-yd TD run (:24, 3Q), which capped a phenomenal day for Cam. On only 17 pass attempts, he threw for 3 TDs, to total 4 for the day. This run was his 14th rushing TD of the year, which set an all-time record for QBs (not just rookie QBs!)
Alright Panthers fans, there's the list. Let's hear what you think in the comments!