The Panthers came up with one of the most miraculous drives in team history Sunday, going 65 yards in the final minute with no timeouts Sunday for the game-winning TD to edge the New Orleans Saints, 17-13, in a rainy and raucous Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers (11-4) clinched a playoff berth with the victory.
Here are 5 things that went right in a very tight game:
1) The defense. Holding the Saints to 13 points is a fairly amazing feat. The Panthers intercepted Drew Brees twice (Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly) and sacked him numerous times. The only hiccup was a big one -- a 97-yard drive in the fourth quarter. But the defense came up big time and again. And the crowd noise was a big part of this -- Charles Johnson would later tweet it was the loudest he had ever heard Bank of America Stadium.
2) Domenik Hixon. What an amazing catch on the game-winning TD (above)-- diving into the side of the end zone for a Cam Newton bullet. Hixon was only playing due to Steve Smith's knee injury, which looked serious.
3) Cam Newton. After 59 minutes of high throws, a red-zone interception and just plain ineffectiveness, he made three incredible throws on the final drive (to Ted Ginn, Greg Olsen and then Hixon).
4) The rain. It didn't hurt the Panthers a bit that the third quarter was played in mostly monsoon conditions. Graham Gano punched a 40-yarder in through the rain that was a key play. And it kept Drew Brees and company on their heels for a couple of series. Check out the rain picture at the bottom of this blog post.
5) The final drive. Just remarkable. Much more coverage to come, but the fact that it was all done without Steve Smith makes it even nuttier.