The countdown rolls on! (If you could hear me saying that it would have been in my best Casey Kasem voice but this is just a post on a blog.)
We’re up to the eighth biggest moment in Carolina Panthers history.
It was the inaugural season of 1995. The Panthers were awaiting the completion of their new stadium in uptown Charlotte (Ericsson Stadium would be its original name – later to be known as Bank of America Stadium.) In the meantime, they would play their home games on the Campus of Clemson University at Clemson Memorial Stadium. (To clarify, they did not rub Howard’s Rock before running onto the field.)
This gave them the distinction of being the first team in any of the big four sports leagues to be based in the state of South Carolina if even for a single season.
The team got off to a rough 0-5 start. That included an opening day heartbreaking loss to the Falcons (23-20), a blowout loss to the Bills (31-9), a trouncing at the hands of the Rams (31-10), a close loss to the Buccaneers (20-13) and an even closer loss to the Bears (31-27).
The team was hungry for its first victory but they were facing a New York Jets team that was also suffering through a tough start to their season having lost 5 of their first six games.
The Panthers drew first blood with a John Kasay 23-yard field goal but the lead didn’t hold up long. The Jets’ Erik Howard would sack Kerry Collins in the endzone for a safety and the Jets’ offense would add a score with a Nick Lowery 50-yard field goal.
The New York defense would extend their lead on a Mo Lewis interception of a Collins pass that he returned 13 yards for a score.
Carolina bounced back. John Kasay added another field goal. This time from 39 yards away. The back and forth game now saw the Jets lead at 12-6.
Late in the second quarter, Bubby Brister was picked off by Sam Mills who would take it the distance – 36 yards for the touchdown. The Panthers would go to the locker room leading 13-12.
In the third quarter, the Panthers offense finally got a sustained drive going. Vince Workman would take it in from five yards out to extend the Carolina lead to 20-12.
The fourth quarter saw nothing but field goals with Kasay adding two more and Lowery adding one. The clock would run out on what would be the end to the Carolina losing streak and the beginning of a new one – a winning streak.
New York was a team in near total disarray to be sure. However, this was an established NFL franchise facing an expansion club that wasn’t supposed to win many (if any) games in their first season in existence.
The Jets’ miserable season continued as they would finish 3-13. It was the Panthers who were headed in the right direction as they were able to use the win to propel them to a four-game winning streak (a record for a first-year NFL franchise) and, despite an 0-5 start, a 7-9 record finishing the year winning 7 out of 11 games.