We have reached the mid-point of the countdown – the number six moment in Carolina Panthers history.
It was the number eight moment that set the team on its course of winning four in a row and setting a record for consecutive wins by a first-year expansion club.
The fourth of those wins is the subject of our sixth greatest moment in team history.
#6. 1995 Week 10 – Carolina Panthers at San Francisco Forty Niners, November 5, 1995
The Carolina Panthers were running a hot streak. A first-year expansion team that had lost their first five games, they had pulled upset wins versus the Jets, Saints and Patriots in consecutive weeks. They were a team that had begun to believe in their head coach, Dom Capers, and the system being run.
Their opponent, the San Francisco Forty Niners, were an experienced team that had won Super Bowl XXIX over the San Diego Chargers the season before in convincing fashion. The 1995 season had not been quite as kind, though they came in the game with a record of 5-3, they had lost the previous week versus a tough New Orleans Saints team in a hard fought 11-7 game. They had no intentions of losing two in a row.
As a reward for having won their previous three, the Panthers would be travelling to the west coast to face the defending champs on their turf. The Niners were without starting quarterback Steve Young who was replaced by Elvis Grbac but these were still the Niners.
This was a slugfest from the outset. Neither team could gain any real estate on the ground as Carolina mustered only 72 yards on the day while San Francisco could gain only 65.
The scoring got underway according to script as the Panthers would put up three on a John Kasay 39-yard field goal in the first quarter.
But it would be the defense that starred in this game. The Niners were able to drive late in the quarter but the defense would dent the scoreboard next. Tim McKyer picked off a Grbac pass at his own four. Ninety-six yards later, the Panthers held an improbable 10-0 lead – a lead they would carry into the second quarter.
Still another Kasay field goal would extend the Carolina lead.
Keeping with their west coast offense, the Niners kept at it through the air gaining small chunks of yardage. Grbac would find Jerry Rice 8 times for 111 yards and his counterpart John Taylor 4 times for 69 yards. (Grbac would finish the day with 327 yards passing.) This day, however, belonged to Carolina and their stingy defense and the champs went to the locker room trailing 13-0.
The second half was more of the same. The Panthers offense continued to do just enough while the defense did more than enough to maintain their lead. The teams would battle through a scoreless third quarter.
It wasn’t until the final quarter of the game that the vaunted Niners offense would score when Derek Loville would dive in from one yard out to cut the lead to 13-7. It wasn’t enough.
The Panther offense was hardly spectacular. Kerry Collins, the rookie quarterback struggled on the day statistically hitting on 17 of 30 passes for 150 yards while Derrick Moore would put up 42 yards on 18 carries.
To underline the extent of the domination of the two defenses, the two teams combined for only 32 first downs and a little over 600 yards of offense. The most telling statistic of all, however, was the number posted in the San Francisco turnover column – 5.
The day belonged, without question, to the Panthers defense.
In the end, Carolina had travelled west to Candlestick Park, defeated the defending Super Bowl Champions and set a league record.
The Niners would finish the season 11-5 and lose in the first round of the playoffs while Carolina would post a 7-9 mark. They were only one year away from making the biggest waves a second-year expansion team has ever made when they appeared in the 1996 NFC Championship Game.
It took this game to confirm the growth required for a Panthers team to reach its goals.