Kelvin Benjamin might not even have been in the game.
The Panthers wide receiver hurt his shoulder in the first half and was briefly in the locker room with trainers before returning to Thursday night’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints. He went largely unnoticed upon his re-entry – that is, until Carolina’s final drive.
The Panthers were trying to stave off a Drew Brees-led New Orleans attack that scored 17 fourth-quarter points and trailed by just three.
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Cam Newton and the Carolina offense had the ball back with 2 minutes, 39 seconds to play, and faced a third-and-15 situation. Newton had just been forced to throw the ball away.
But Benjamin streaked up the seam on the next play and Newton connected with him in double coverage for an 18-yard gain to keep the drive alive.
“I’m happy I did make it and didn’t fumble,” he said, grinning after the game.
"We were trying to cat-and-mouse our game," said Newton. "We were trying to get Benjy and Greg Olsen singled and isolated. They did a great job, had a great scheme with a short week taking those guys, trying to take those guys away from us. My job was to give them the opportunity, give him a chance and he didn't disappoint."
Ultimately, the Panthers were able to take another two minutes off the clock and New Orleans’ hurry-up offense failed with only 30 seconds to operate. Carolina won 23-20.
“It was one of those things that just shows the benefit of having those types of guys out on the football field,” coach Ron Rivera said. “We have a good group of young men and we just have to keep it rolling.”