Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton erred early, but he didn’t implode.
In fact, he did quite the opposite.
Kicker Graham Gano missed an extra point later, but he didn’t implode.
In fact, he did quite the opposite.
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Newton came back from an egregious early interception into double coverage to finish 22 of 29 with 316 yards, three touchdowns and an interception (plus he ran in a score himself), and Gano’s 48-yard field goal with four seconds left gave the Panthers a 33-30 victory over the New England Patriots.
After Newton’s interception late in the first quarter, he finished the half a perfect eight-for-eight with two touchdowns, with 189 yards and a 126.3 quarterback rating. And he led a Panthers offense that had struggled all season to an average of more than 8 yards per play against New England.
But one fourth-quarter drive, with the Panthers (3-1) up seven, did implode on Carolina as Newton took a third-down sack for a 12-yard loss.
A poor punt gave Patriots quarterback Tom Brady the ball at midfield, and he marched his offense to the shadow of the Panthers’ goal line. Carolina held Brady off through three downs, but on the fourth he found Danny Amendola a half-step ahead of Collin Jones in the end zone to tie the game at 30.
That set the stage for the Panthers, who drove to the New England 30 before Gano’s winning kick.
Newton’s early interception, forced to speedy receiver Damiere Byrd and picked off by Malcom Butler, was the quarterback’s mistake. With 3 yards to gain on third down, Newton looked deep for Byrd and completely missed a wide-open Devin Funchess on a short screen. Brady capitalized on the turnover with a touchdown.
But Newton seemed to make up for missing Funchess later in the second quarter when he found Funchess wide open in the end zone for the receiver’s first touchdown of the season.
Earlier in the quarter, scatback Fozzy Whittaker scored on a beautiful misdirection play. Newton set rookie running back Christian McCaffrey in motion, and most of the Patriots defense shifted to track McCaffrey. Whittaker scampered open on the opposite side and caught a short pass from Newton, and ran it in for a 28-yard touchdown.
Funchess scored again on a physical 10-yard catch late in the third quarter.
Three who mattered
Graham Gano: Tied at 30 with 4:18 to play, kicker Graham Gano’s missed extra point in the third quarter loomed large. Gano more than earned redemption by kicking the 48-yard game winner.
Trai Turner: With the Patriots seven points down in the fourth quarter and a long drive needed, standout guard Trai Turner appeared to be injured on a second down. He left the game, and the Patriots sent pressure into that guard spot. Newton took a sack for a 12-yard loss, and a poor punt from Michael Palardy gave the ball to Brady at about midfield with 7:34 to play.
Julius Peppers: Despite playing with a large brace on a sore shoulder, Panthers veteran defensive end Julius Peppers was an imposing presence against Brady and the Patriots line. Peppers disrupted early and often, sacking Brady twice and becoming a wall of sorts on a play in the first half in which Brady was looking for a receiver downfield. The quarterback ultimately had to take a sack from Kawann Short after finding no way around Peppers.
▪ Linebacker Shaq Thompson wore a pair of custom powder-blue cleats that featured a white hand shaking a black hand and a message of unity, following the wave of demonstrations across the NFL last week. All Panthers stood for the national anthem this week, and Stewart joined Davis in his prayer during the anthem.
▪ Starting corner Daryl Worley was unable to play Sunday with a shoulder injury, so newcomer Kevon Seymour started in his place. When Coleman hurt his knee in the first half, rookie and former undrafted free agent Demetrious Cox came in to play for him – seeing Brady in his first NFL action.
▪ Newton rushed for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Before his signature “Superman” celebration, Newton raised a clenched fist in the air.
▪ Safety Mike Adams’ pass interference on Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski gave Brady and his offense 33 yards in the second quarter. Brady capitalized on the gift with a touchdown pass to Chris Hogan. But Adams made up for the penalty later, with two crucial pass breakups (one of which prevented a touchdown) and held down the secondary after fellow veteran Kurt Coleman went down with a knee injury and did not return.
▪ Once again, a promising first drive for the Panthers sputtered in the red zone. Carolina settled for a field goal, matching the Patriots’ first drive.
▪ Running back Jonathan Stewart also fumbled in the red zone on the first Panthers drive of the second half, killing the momentum of what had been a well-executed drive
▪ Neither team was effective on the ground in the opening half. Carolina mustered just 33 first-half rushing yards to New England’s 37.
▪ Gano’s wide-left extra point attempt was the first miss for Gano this year, in either an extra point or field goal attempt.
▪ Through three quarters, Carolina averaged 8.5 yards per play against New England.
▪ Panthers defensive end Mario Addison left the game with a knee injury but did return. Byrd also left with a wrist injury and did not return.