The Carolina Panthers just clinched the No.2 NFC playoff seed, a first-round bye and a home playoff game either Jan.10 or 11 by winning a 33-31 thriller at New Orleans.
Carolina lost all of a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, as New Orleans stormed back with 21 fourth-quarter points to take a 31-30 lead.
But then Steve Smith out-jumped two Saints for a huge 39-yard completion that could have just as easily been intercepted. Jake Delhomme hit Muhsin Muhammad with another key completion and John Kasay lined up for a 42-yard field goal to win it with 0:01 remaining. It was good -- Kasay had missed from 41 yards earlier in the game and ended the game 4-for-5.
The final drive was for 57 yards and one of the most important comebacks Delhomme has ever led. Smith's catch has to be the play of the game.
Kasay had a chance to win the New York Giants game, too, at the end of regulation, but just missed from 50 yards out. Kasay then kicked the ball out of bounds and Drew Brees had one final chance from his own 40, but Brees threw an incompletion -- also falling short of Dan Marino's single-season record by only 16 yards -- and Carolina was victorious.
The Panthers won't know their home playoff opponent until after the games of Jan.3 and 4 are played.
10 months ago