They seem to be getting the old band back together again -- does it not seem to you like the Cardiac Cats are back? Carolina edged New England, 24-20, Monday night on a game not decided until the final play. The 5 things I liked the most (as well as a couple I didn't):
1. The dramatics. Hey, if you're a little tired on Tuesday, suck it up. Was that game not worth it? It wasn't decided until the last play, when Tom Brady threw an interception in the end zone and a pass-interference flag on Luke Kuechly was controversially waved off (due to the ball being deemed uncatchable by Rob Gronkowski, who Kuechly was bear-hugging. This was one of the most electrifying wins in Panther franchise history. (Also, I am holding a quick contest on Twitter only -- best nickname of that final play wins a copy of my new Panther book. Enter by going to Twitter and putting your nickname and @Scott_Fowler in your tweet to make sure I see it). Deadline is 3 p.m. Monday.
2. Cam Newton. Simply put, one of his best games ever. Three TD passes. Zero turnovers. A 14-yard scramble you had to see to believe. And the signature fourth-quarter TD drive his career needed. Here's my column on Cam's performance, which netted him a 125.4 quarterback rating and, far more importantly, a win. He thought he could fly (see picture at very bottom of this blog) and it turned out that he could.
3. The crowd. "It was phenomenal," coach Ron Rivera said. "This city wants it, and we're going to give it to them." Rarely has it been louder at B of A.
4. Thomas Davis and Kuechly. Unofficially, Davis had a remarkable 17 tackles and Kuechly had 12 (as well as that bear hug of "Gronk" on that last play that was not called).
5. Robert Lester. On the final play, the rookie undrafted safety was in the right position and intercepted Brady. After watching the Georgia-Auburn game Saturday, you know that it's not a sure thing to make that interception right at that time.
There were a number of problems this game showcased for the Panthers, too. Brady shredded Carolina for 296 yards and the Patriots ran for another 107. Charles Johnson got leg-whipped by the Patriots' Marcus Cannon (it should have been a penalty) and his injury status is unclear, although I was amazed to see him back in the game late. Cornerback Melvin White looked overmatched many times and was obviously targeted by the Patriots. The Panthers couldn't run the ball at all, as the offensive line had all sorts of trouble run-blocking and the running backs did little.
But, hey, they won another close game over another extremely good team. It was a huge win on a number of levels, and it pushed the Panthers to another in what recently has been a series of mountaintops. Here's how Greg Olsen felt about it in a postgame hug with Rivera (and no wonder Olsen is so sure-handed; he has three hands). And then look at this Newton "flying" picture (all of the pictures in my blog are from our excellent Observer photographers - Jeff Siner and David Foster were shooting Monday night's game and did a great slideshow you can find elsewhere at charobs.com).