With the 2013 season in the rear-view mirror, CatCrave.com has football withdrawals at epic levels right now. Training camp is still just under a month away, so why not look back at last season’s schedule and pick out the five greatest games from 2013 for our beloved Carolina Panthers. I need my football fix!
#2 – Week 11: November 18th vs New England Patriots
I’m guessing many fans had this game as the #1 game of 2013 in their minds, so allow me to burst your bubble. It was a toss-up between this game and one other one for the #1 overall slot. This game had everything you could hope for. Prime-time audience. Controversy. Cam Newton being Cam Newton. And some ice was involved.
Carolina drew first blood against Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots when Cam Newton hooked up with Brandon LaFell late in the first quarter, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
Earlier in the drive though, we got the first glimpses of a battle between Steve Smith and Patriots DB Aqib Talib that would continue throughout the affair. They shared words a few times during the drive, as well as some physical play. The Monday Night crowd and spotlight helped fan the flames of Smitty’s passion in front of Talib.
The two teams’ defenses would step up during the second quarter and into the third, as field goals were exchanged.
One of the greatest plays of the season came on the next drive when Cam Newton flipped his cape over his shoulder and put on a show. Pinned back in what looked like a series-ending third down sack, Newton escaped the pocket. He alluded, danced and trotted his way to a huge first down. Bank of America Stadium was rockin’ after this play.
Throughout the night the opportunities were constantly there for the Panthers as Newton was precise under pressure. His 125.4 QB Rating bested Brady’s 91.2. Efficiency was the key to Cam’s game on this November night. Manage the game and limiting mistakes kept the Panther train riding along smoothly.
After Newton’s spectacular scramble, the Panthers continued moving the chains. Late in the third quarter, Newton found tight end Greg Olsen for a touchdown right at the goal line. Panthers 17 Patriots 10.
As the fourth quarter began, the Patriots began moving the ball with a little more ease. Brady was starting to find his windows of opportunity and Stevan Ridley started collecting some positive yards. In fact, Ridley walked into the endzone with just over 12 minutes left in the game to pull the Patriots even at 17.
The energy at BOA Stadium was still positive, but eyeing the infamous Brady and Belichick roaming the sidelines, started allowing doubt to creep into Panthers fans’ minds. Would they witness in person one of the many “Brady Comebacks” that is all to familiar to the other 30 teams around the league?
We kept up so well after an emotional win the previous week in San Francisco - surely we can continue this fight!
After a Patriots’ field goal, the Panthers got the ball back with six minutes remaining, and backed up deep in their own territory, trailing by three. Cam stepped up huge when it counted and put the team (along with 74,000 fans) on his shoulders and marched his troops down the field.
And then it happened.
Cam Newton to Ted Ginn, Jr. A quick curl route that Ginn turned around a defender on, and bolted 25-yards to the promised land. The Bank was shaking. The fans were going nuts. Football fans around the country saw an amazing game come to an epic ending when Ginn crossed the goal line. :59 left in the game.
But was the game truly over yet? Not when Tom Brady is staring at you across the field.
The Patriots quickly assembled a quick drive that kept the ball moving with a full slate of timeouts. A huge fourth-and-ten catch that kept the sticks moving for New England. The Pats cross midfield with :30 left.
Brady moves the ball inside the 20-yard line with :03 left. This is it. For the game.
Ball is snapped. Brady is under pressure lofts a ball for Gronkowski that falls several yards short of the intended receiver, and is intercepted by rookie Robert Lester. And then the yellow flag comes in.
Watching the replay, you can see Gronk get tangled up with LB Luke Kuechly in the back of the end zone which drew the flag. After reviewing the play, the flag is picked up and the game is officially over. Panthers win 24-20 in a nail-biter of a game. The last play could have honestly gone either way, but in the end, the right call was made.
With everyone celebrating and hugging with smiles gleaming from ear-to-ear, one of the mantras of the season would come to fruition in a post-game interview.
Words can’t describe what came out of Steve Smith’s mouth, so I will let the video speak for itself.
Final Score :
Carolina – 24 New England – 20
Next Up: The Grand Finale – #1 on the list of Top Panther Games of 2013