As I was doing some research for a future article I stumbled onto a video of the wacky way the Carolina Panthers 1999 season ended. It was a revelation for me. I became a Panthers fan in 2003 when I moved to North Carolina and had never before heard how coach George Seifert’s first season in Charlotte concluded.
To set the stage, going into Week 17 the Panthers, Green Bay Packers, and Dallas Cowboys were all sitting at 7-8 and only one of them would make the playoffs. Dallas controlled its own destiny. If the Cowboys won their 4 p.m. game they would make the playoffs as a wild card team. But if Dallas lost then either the Panthers or Packers, both of which played at 1 p.m., would advance.
The tiebreaker between the Panthers and Panthers was crazy. It would ultimately come down to their net point differential in conference games. Green Bay came into the game with an 18 point advantage over Carolina. Because the outcome of the Dallas game wouldn’t be known until later that afternoon, both the Panthers and Packers came into their 1 p.m. games with guns blazing. Each team didn’t only want to win, they wanted to run up the score as much as possible.
The Panthers had a home game against the 3-12 New Orleans Saints. The Packers had a home game against the 6-9 Arizona Cardinals. The video below shows what happened during those wild, dramatic 1 p.m. games. (Viewer warning: Here comes Chris Berman!)
Just look at those scores! The Panthers dropped 45 points behind five Steve Beuerlein touchdowns. The Brett Favre-led Packers put up 49 points thanks to four Dorsey Levens rushing touchdowns. For one brilliant, crazy Sunday NFL coaches acted like they were playing Madden, trying to squeeze out every point possible regardless of situation or score.
For a brief moment the Panthers had a +2 point differential over the Packers and were this close to being in playoff position prior to the Cowboys 4 p.m. game. Now - spoiler alert - the Cowboys went on to win their game and claim the final playoff spot so the Panthers efforts were in vain, but the back-and-forth scoring between the Panthers and Packers was thrilling.
And, yes, that was Jake Delhomme in his second career game trying to lead the Saints in their bid to spoil the Panthers season. Good Ol’ Jake tossed four interceptions to his future team but somehow rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown. Carolina’s legendary kick returner Michael Bates had one of the most incredible 95-yard kick return touchdowns you’ll ever see.
This is the first time I had heard about the crazy finish to the 1999 season. It was over 20 years ago but some of you probably remember watching this play out live. If you are among the old-school fans who lived through this in real time I’d love to hear your recollections in the comments.