Going to extremes as the Panthers drop to 1-4 with another heartbreaker -- a 30-27 loss to New Orleans in which the Panthers led midway through the fourth quarter.....
Best catch: Steve Smith’s 54-yard catch and run for a touchdown in the first quarter recharged a crowd that had seen Carolina fall down 10-0 in the first nine minutes.
Worst cheap shot: Safety Roman Harper coming over and drilling Smith after he had clearly crossed the goal line on that TD incited a miniature brawl and should draw Harper a fine.
Best drive: New Orleans was beautifully methodical on its final one, starting it with 7:06 left and running the clock down to 50 seconds before scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
Worst drive: The Panthers had all three timeouts and 51 seconds remaining to try and get Olindo Mare in position for a field goal to send the game to overtime. But they couldn’t advance past the New Orleans 49, hamstrung by an offensive holding call on Jordan Gross, a drop of a very difficult catch by Naanee and a lot of defensive pressure by the Saints.
Best game against former team: John Kasay (3-for-3 on both field goals and extra points) eclipsed Jeremy Shockey (three catches, 21 yards and a whole lot of exhortations to the crowd and his teammates).
Best/worst of special teams: Carolina's punt coverage was far better. But the Panthers did allow an extra point to be blocked, which should never happen.
Worst throw: Cam Newton’s very first one was picked off and allowed New Orleans to start its first drive at the Carolina 3. Newton said later this was his fault, as he threw a slant pass and Smith ran an out toward the sideline.
Best target: New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is a star in the making and burned the middle of the defense time and again with game highs in catches (eight) and yards (129).
Best comeback: The Panthers made a game of it, taking a 27-23 lead after being down 23-13 in the third quarter.
Best weather: It was just about a perfect October afternoon – sunny, a little breeze and in the 70s. Fans deserved it after the Jacksonville monsoon.
Worst Panther coaching decision: Sending the “field-goal block” team on the field in the frenzied final seconds of the first half. With that team coming on, the Panther defense had to rush players off the field. Coach Ron Rivera called a timeout with 0:02, which he later said was a mistake and that “those three points come right on my shoulders.”
But I think if Rivera didn’t call timeout that the Panthers had too many men on the field and would have been penalized. It was an error, certainly, but if Carolina had just kept the defense on the field, I don’t think Kasay would have gotten the field goal away before the clock ran out.
As it ended up, though, that was a very critical three points in a game decided by three points.
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