• New England tackle Marcus Cannon wasn’t penalized for the leg whip that temporarily knocked Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson out of the game. But he will be fined.
• Picked Carolina to beat San Francisco by 1. The Panthers did. I picked the Panthers to beat New England Monday by 4. They did. No big deal. Just, you know, if you were wondering.
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• I spent more than 12 hours uptown Monday. And the last time I saw the city as excited about a sporting event in Charlotte was Jan. 5, 1997, when Carolina played its first playoff game. The Panthers beat Dallas 26-17. Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith made the trip. The Panthers encircled the field afterward in a beautiful, spontaneous moment, slapping hands with fans. Carolina has played big games since, on Monday night and in the playoffs. But based on what I saw, felt and heard, New England game was bigger.
• Cam Newton’s 14-yard scramble was what – dazzling, breathtaking, way too cool? How do you watch it and not smile? According to ESPN Stats and Info, Newton covered 75.8 yards and dodged six defenders. The best move, when he had two defenders in front of him, coming at him, was a step-back-Jack backward jump that helped free him. He also was helped by a first-class block up field by fullback Mike Tobert.
• New England’s offensive strategy was apparent. Fire the ball quickly, and underneath. It worked repeatedly. Tom Brady was good on first and second down and superb on third and fourth. That was greatness out there, for both teams. For New England, it wasn’t enough.