It has long been said that it is better to be lucky than good.
This year’s version of the Carolina Panthers is both.
First, they were damn good. Trading blows with the NFL’s premier heavyweight, the New England Patriots, the Panthers played a complete game and even came back in the 4th quarter to put the Pats away. No star shined brighter tonight than Cam Newton, who burst onto the scene on Monday Night Football. He passed for 209 yards, 3 TDs, and ran for 62 yards. He established himself tonight as one of the premier quarterbacks in the league.
Down by 3 and time bleeding in the fourth quarter, the Panthers needed Cam Newton to lead the team 85 yards. Rather than settle for a field goal, Newton found an open Ted Ginn, Jr., who turned on the afterburners to score a touchdown with a minute to go. Cam came to play, and many could argue that he outplayed Brady tonight.
But they were also lucky.
On the last play of the game, with 3 seconds to go, Patriots quarterback took a shot to the end zone to his favorite target, Rob Gronkowski. Upon further review, linebacker Luke Kuechly looks to "hug" Gronkowski, allowing safety Robert Lester to make the interception. On first glance, it looks like the call could have gone either way - it is a relief it was ruled in the Panthers favor.
The Turning Point: There was no bigger turning point in the game than the final play. We have seen the Panthers fail in the final minutes of the game many times before, and with Tom Brady equipped with 3 timeouts and a minute left to go, it was almost certain he would march them all the way down the field. On the final play, Tom Brady appeared to work his magic again, but an interception by UDFA Robert Lester sealed the game with :00 on the clock.
The Good: The Panthers showed up to play under the Monday night lights, against a high-profile opponent in the New England Patriots. Cam Newton was a world of fire, with 3 TD passes, many long scrambles on 3rd down, and last, but not least, a clutch final drive with a TD to Ted Ginn, Jr., with the game on the line. The defense bent, but did not break, doing enough to keep the team in the game. Keeping the dangerous Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to only 20 points with 2 weeks to plan is an admirable performance by the defense.
The Bad: As a long time Panthers fan, I will take any win, as ugly as it could be. But it is hard to be truly satisfied winning a game on a controversial call. On the last play, the referees picked up a flag on a possible pass interference by Luke Kuechly on Rob Gronkowski. This call looks like it will be debated for days to come. Sadly, this may hurt the Panthers from getting "media love." That call aside, the other "Bad" things from this game were the injuries suffered by star defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. Both remained in the game, but the extent of their injuries will be closely monitored. Lastly, it will overlooked because of the win, but Luke Kuechly was terrible on the last Patriots drive. In addition to the infamous "no call," he also gave up the long interception to Gronkowski on 4th and 10. Had he been penalized, his performance in crunch time would have been scrutinized.
Panthers Offensive MVP: Cam Newton. He has been praised for many things since breaking into the league, but never for being "clutch." His 4th quarter comebacks against two legit Super Bowl contenders (the 49ers last week and against the Patriots tonight) may change that.
Panthers Defensive MVP: Thomas Davis swarmed all over the field against the Patriots. 17 tackles and made some great stuffs on the Patriots run game. He even won the #GrudenGrinder award from Jon Gruden after the game.
Panthers Who Starred: Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, Jr., Greg Olsen, Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei, Greg Hardy, Luke Kuechly.
Panthers Who Struggled: DeAngelo Williams, Melvin White, Captain Munnerlyn (both for whiffing on interceptions on the last drive), Kuechly on the last drive
Tweet of the game:
I love everyone right now. #BELIEVE— Cat Scratch Reader (@CatScratchReadr) November 19, 2013
GIF of the game:
After two emotionally charged games, the Carolina Panthers cannot relax, as they face the seemingly dysfunctional Miami Dolphins in Miami. The Dolphins will be coming off a win of their own, beating the Chargers yesterday. The Panthers will bring their six game winning streak to South Beach.