There were more than 2,000 plays in the Carolina Panthers’ 2013 regular season.
We are here today to talk about 10 of them.
A handful of plays make or break every NFL season. From 2009-12, every Panthers season shattered like glass.
But this season, the Panthers made the plays that made their year. They went 12-4, won the NFC South and earned a first-round playoff bye.
Instead of creating my own top 10 list of plays, I conducted a poll in the locker room. I asked 16 Panthers players to vote on what the most important plays of the 2013 season were, offering no other prompts or suggestions.
Some named as many as five plays. Some named a single one.
I gave one point to each play named unless a Panther only voted for one moment and clearly specified it as the No.1 play of the season. In that case, the play received three points.
To add another perspective, I also asked Panther fans on CharlotteObserver.com and on Twitter what they believed the single most important play of the season was.
Now, based purely on the players’ poll, let’s count the top plays down from No. 10 to No. 1.
No. 10: “L-u-u-u-k-e!”
“It was still tight at the time, still early, and Luke just makes a great play to pick off that route to Gonzalez,” Panthers safety Mike Mitchell said. “We got a two-score lead not long after that and it turned into a rout, but it could have been much closer except for this play.”
No. 9: Kaepernick sacked – again
“That sack was huge,” Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson said. “It put them in a second-and-very-long situation, and winning that game set us apart. We were a team that had some clout then – a team that had some stuff.”
No. 8: The birth of ‘Riverboat Ron’
“When Coach Rivera went for it on fourth down against Minnesota,” wide receiver Domenik Hixon said, “that really set the tone. It kind of let us know that all the chips were on the line.”
No. 7: Melvin White’s pick-6
“You’ve got to go with Melvin from last week for this,” Panther cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “It wasn’t looking good. We needed a play, and Melvin came up big. That changed the momentum completely.”
No. 6: Gano’s blast
No. 5: Block that punt!
“That was a huge play,” fellow special-teamer Jordan Senn said. “The game hung in the balance until then.”
No. 4: Losing in Buffalo
“We learned from that mistake,” said Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, who declared this play the most important of the season. “It made us hold ourselves to a higher standard. We didn’t want that to ever happen again.”
No. 3: Ginn does it again
“The difference this year compared to past years was that we finished games – we finished drives at the end,” center Ryan Kalil said. “Ted Ginn’s TD against the Patriots was a great example of that.”
No. 2: Hixon’s TD vs. New Orleans
No. 1: Fourth-and-10 in Miami
Said Newton: “Steve making that fourth-and-10 catch – that one still sticks out to me.”