After Cam Newton threw a 26-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Greg Olsen, the tight end expected his quarterback to congratulate him.
The Panthers had just scored with 30 seconds to play, giving them a 27-23 against the Seattle Seahawks, and the team was celebrating.
“I thought he was going to say awesome job but he said, ‘Man you should have had three touchdowns!’” Olsen said.
Olsen caught seven passes on 11 targets from Newton for a team-high 131 yards. Twice he was tackled inside the 2. But the seventh and final catch left no doubt.
7 Passes caught by Greg Olsen against the Seattle Seahawks
11 Targets of Olsen by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton
131 Receiving yards for Olsen, a team high
1 Touchdown, the game winner in the final minute
The game-winning score came on a play the Seahawks had seen the previous drive, but Seattle’s vaunted secondary still had a breakdown. Cornerback Richard Sherman said there was a miscommunication between him and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, which led to Olsen being wide open in the end zone.
On the previous Panthers drive, Newton hit Olsen up the seam for 32 yards, and Olsen was tackled at the 1. Jonathan Stewart finished off the drive with a touchdown to bring the Panthers within three.
Olsen had gone down at the 2-yard-line in the third quarter on a 22-yard pass from Newton. Stewart punched that touchdown in also.
On both occasions, Olsen could have tried to stick the ball across the goal line and stretch for the score. But earlier this month, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson tried that against these Seahawks and had the ball knocked away for a touchback on what would have been a game-winning score.
“I had visions of getting the ball knocked out. We all saw what happened,” Olsen said. “With Stew and our offensive line, I don’t care about touchdowns. I’m not going to jeopardize the team to get an extra touchdown.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera credited some of Olsen’s big day to the hard running of Jonathan Stewart, who gained 78 yards on 20 carries. Stewart made Seattle respect Carolina’s rushing attack.
Olsen’s 131 yards were the second-most in his career in a game, bested only by his Week 3 performance against the Saints this season, when he hauled in eight passes for 134 yards and two scores.
A field goal would have tied the game as the Panthers marched down the field with two minutes left. Olsen said the offense didn’t predetermine whether they’d play for a field goal or touchdown. They just remained steady.
With one timeout and the two-minute warning, the Panthers started their final drive from their 20 and drove to the Seattle 26 with 37 seconds left before spiking the ball to stop the clock.
The noise from Seattle’s 12th Man made it tough for the Panthers to hear the call. Newton yelled out the play and the Panthers went straight to the line.
Olsen said there was a “heightened state of attention,” and center Ryan Kalil snapped the ball with two seconds remaining on the play clock.
Olsen then found himself wide open.
“It doesn’t happen a lot at this level,” Olsen said. “You’re not open that much against these guys. They cover so much ground and there are usually bodies around you when you catch the ball.
“I have one simple job every play. I try to do what’s asked of me. and when Cam needs me the most, I need to be there for him. That’s been my approach my entire career. I think he knows he can rely on me and I try to never let him down.”