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Panthers vs. Jets: Five plays that mattered

1. Smith’s third-down conversion

The score: Panthers 3, Jets 0, 3:55 left in first quarter.

The situation: Jets ball, third-and-5 at the New York 25.

The play: Rookie quarterback Geno Smith threw right for David Nelson, who sat down in front of cornerback Drayton Florence for a 16-yard gain and a first down at the Jets’ 41.

Why it mattered: Nelson’s catch was the longest play during a drive that culminated with Nick Folk’s 54-yard field goal, which tied the score at 3-all on the final play of the first quarter.

2. Ivory’s long run

The score: Panthers 6, Jets 3, 5:32 left in second quarter.

The situation: Jets ball, first-and-10 at the New York 41.

The play: Running the no-huddle offense, Smith handed off to Chris Ivory. With defensive end Greg Hardy caught in an inside stunt, Ivory sprinted through a huge hole behind the left side of the line for a 35-yard gain to the Panthers’ 24.

Why it mattered: The run was the longest play of the first half for the Jets and allowed them to keep pace with the Panthers. The drive stalled at the Panthers’ 10, but Folk connected on a 33-yard field goal after a delay-of-game penalty to tie the score at 6-all.

3. Newton’s laser to Olsen

The score: Panthers 13, Jets 6, 2:00 left in second quarter.

The situation: Panthers ball, second-and-7 at the Carolina 47.

The play: Cam Newton stood in the pocket and threw a dart to the back shoulder of Greg Olsen. Despite good coverage by cornerback Kyle Wilson, Olsen pulled the ball in for a 23-yard reception to the Jets’ 30.

Why it mattered: DeAngelo Williams had given the Panthers the lead with his 72-yard touchdown catch. But after the Jets went three-and-out, the Panthers had a chance to tack on another score before halftime. Olsen’s catch set up Graham Gano’s 40-yard field goal to make it 16-6.

4. Cumberland’s big conversion catch

The score: Panthers 16, Jets 6, 6:03 left in third quarter.

The situation: Jets ball, third-and-7 at the New York 37.

The play: With free safety Mike Mitchell blitzing, Smith found tight end Jeff Cumberland wide open in the middle of the field. Cumberland, who had a step on middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, ran 35 yards to the Panthers’ 28.

Why it mattered: The Panthers seemed to be in control, until coach Ron Rivera went for a fourth-and-2 at the Jets’ 14 instead of taking a short field goal. The Jets held, then drove 86 yards on nine plays – the biggest the Cumberland catch – before defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge to pull New York to 16-13.

5. Jason Williams’ blocked punt

The score: Panthers 16, Jets 13, 12:56 left in fourth quarter.

The situation: Jets ball, fourth-and-9 at the New York 30.

The play: After a holding penalty on first down, the Jets went three-and-out. Ryan Quigley came out to punt. Special teams mainstay and backup linebacker Jason Williams broke free up the middle and smothered Quigley’s punt, giving the Panthers possession at the Jets’ 14.

Why it mattered: Four plays after Williams’ block, fullback Mike Tolbert barreled into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run to increase the Panthers’ lead to 23-13 and give them control of the game.

Joseph Person

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