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Panthers receiver Steve Smith still clutch at age 34

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DAVID T. FOSTER III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith (89), who surpassed 12,000 yards in career receiving on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, is still making clutch catches at age 34.

Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula said Monday that late Sunday night, after the Carolina Panthers had defeated the Miami Dolphins 20-16 in Miami, he heard a national sports pundit call Steve Smith “ageless.”

He found the term appropriate for Smith, 34. The 13-year veteran receiver rarely shows his age when a big catch needs to be made.

Smith’s 19-yard gain on a pass from Cam Newton on fourth-and-10 from the Carolina 20 to continue what would be a game-winning drive.

“Steve likes to say in big games, big players make big plays,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “And that’s true. Steve is one of those guys.

“He and Cam have developed that kind of rapport that they work together. When it came down to it and it came to clutch time, the 49ers game he made as clutch a catch as I’ve been around. And this game, making this clutch catch, was huge.”

In Week 10 against San Francisco, Smith hauled in a 9-yard catch on third down near the two-minute warning in Panthers’ territory. The play extended Carolina’s drive and eventually forced San Francisco to use its final timeout before getting the ball back with 1:02 left.

Smith finished Sunday’s game with five catches for a team-high 69 yards. He also became the 22nd player in NFL history with at least 12,000 receiving yards his career.

He has 12,033 receiving yards on 823 catches.

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