If you ask the average Panthers fan what they felt was the most memorable moment in team history, they might give you any number of answers. So, I’ve attemped to boil it down to the ten most memorable or, more accurately, the ten most defining moments in franchise history.
The Carolina Panthers have been fortunate in their brief existence to have had enough great games and plays to even fill a top ten. To the contrary, they’ve had enough great games and moments to fill a top 20 at least.
This is where we had to boil it down a bit and probably where I’m going to take a bit of a beating on some of the final choices. We’ll be giving you five per week for the next two weeks. Then, let the complaints come rolling in.
I went through the following process to choose the games and moments. First, it had to have some significance to the franchise or, more specifically, a lasting impact on the direction or the standing of the franchise. Second, the list is not just games but also performances or plays – there are great games on the list but within each are key moments and key plays that helped to win the game and therefore will always stand out in the memory of the fans. Third, we didn’t put a lot of weight on big statistical games. While they can have a great impact, games so often come down to big plays and not just big numbers. Plus, so many of the individual plays in the Panthers’ history stood head and shoulders above the rest that no big statistical performances made the list anyway.
So, without any further delay, let’s begin counting them down.
Never before (and maybe no time since) has a preseason game been so interesting especially for NFL fans in the southeast. After years of applications, meetings and proposals both franchises were approved by the league. Finally, the dream would become a reality as both teams would actually suit up players in their uniforms and play a game on an NFL field.
The game pitted two teams that had taken differing approaches to building their rosters. The Jaguars had made an attempt to start with veterans at quarterback in Mark Brunell and Steve Beuerlein. They had drafted youth to man their offensive line and running back spots (Tony Boselli second overall and James Stewart 19th overall).
The Panthers had chosen to go with a mix of veteran and youth at quarterback with Frank Reich being signed away from the Buffalo Bills and the selection of Kerry Collins 5th overall.
Carolina had hired Dom Capers who had been the defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers while Jacksonville was led by Tom Coughlin who had previously coached at Boston College.
The game got interesting early when Desmond Howard returned a punt 66 yards for a score with 5:13 remaining in the first quarter.
The Panthers were able to mount a drive in the second quarter behind Frank Reich who completed the march with a 16 yard TD pass to early fan favorite, fullabck Bob Christian. The Panthers also closed out the scoring in the first half on an interception by Tyrone Poole who picked off Steve Beuerlein and took it 85 yards for the score.
(There was a lot of irony in this game, of course, since Beuerlein would later become the Panthers’ starting quarterback and would set the team record for passing yards in a season.)
The Jaguars would tie the score in the third quarter on a James Stewart one-yard TD run but John Kasay would account for the only points of the fourth quarter with field goals of 31 and 39 yards, giving the upstart Panthers a 20-14 victory.
Honestly, to watch it, this was not exactly an exciting game. What made this game great was that it was a matchup of two expansion teams who finally (FINALLY!) got to suit up some players and play a game. It didn’t count in the standings and the league may not recognize the stats as official but for anyone watching we will always believe that the very first TD in team history, official or not, was scored by Bob Christian.
More importantly, our team, the Carolina Panthers were 1-0 while that other expansion team was 0-1. The rivalry we hoped would develop from this meeting never really materialized but at least on this day there was one and our team came out on top.