Hi, everyone. I'm glad to be home in Charlotte. I got stranded in Wisconsin and then O'Hare airport in Chicago following the Green Bay game, and didn't actually get back into my own house until the wee hours Tuesday morning.
Anyway, I'm writing a column for Wednesday's Charlotte Observer on how the Tampa Bay-Carolina game stacks up in terms of significance for all home games in Carolina's 14-year football history (there have been slightly more than 100 of them altogether).
Now take into account, this list is only about HOME games (so no Super Bowl, no road playoff games). And it's not a list of Carolina's best wins ever. It's a list of their most SIGNIFICANT home games ever -- the ones that meant the most, either at the time or in retrospect.
Here's my top five chart, which will run in Wednesday's paper, along with a few honorable mentions, which won't:
MOMENTOUS HOME GAMES
Here's my take on the 5 most significant home games in the Carolina Panthers’ 14-season history:
1) DALLAS -- Jan.4, 1997. It’s never as good as the first time. Carolina’s first-ever home playoff game was a 26-17 win over a Dallas team that included the Fab Four of Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman.
2) DALLAS – Jan.3, 2004. The Panthers began their run to the Super Bowl with a 29-10 whipping of the Cowboys; Steve Smith set the tone with a 70-yard reception on Panthers’ first pass.
3) TAMPA BAY, Dec.8, 2008 – Coming this Monday night, a December home game under the lights, with two 9-3 teams and bitter rivals fighting for NFC South superiority. Extremely significant no matter how it turns out.
4) PITTSBURGH -- Dec.22, 1996. Chad Cota’s end-zone interception -- which was hard to see from any vantage point -- clinched 12-4 season and Carolina’s first division title.
5) NEW ORLEANS -- Jan.2, 2005. Panthers would have made 2004playoffs with win after 1-7 start to season, but stunk it up in a 21-18 loss to the Saints.
My 2 honorable mentions: Carolina's first-ever home win in Oct.1995, when Sam Mills returned Bubby Brister's shovel pass for a TD in a 26-15 victory at Clemson and Carolina's 23-7 win over San Francisco in 1996, which came during the 49ers' heyday and showed everyone the Panthers would be a force that season.
Now remember, this list can include both wins and losses (see No.5). I'm sure I'm forgetting some other big home games -- tell me if you remember any or disagree with anything on this list.