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Panthers fans celebrate snorkel Sunday

Watching – or playing – a football game in a monsoon is always an experience. When it results in victory, it becomes one of those stories you pass down for years. When it’s a defeat, everyone just looks as miserable as a soaked cat.

In this game, the rain mostly held off until the third quarter, when the skies opened and everyone in the stadium took a shower. The water was pouring so hard off the upper deck into the lower deck that there were several places that literally looked like waterfalls, and the poor fans under them all had to vacate their seats or risk drowning.

•  Kudos to Graham Gano for hitting a 40-yard field goal into the teeth of the rain, and to Luke Kuechly for diving for an interception that could have easily been dropped. The rain seemed to favor the Panthers – once it stopped, New Orleans embarked on their 97-yard drive that would have won the game but for the offense’s late heroics.

•  Before Panthers fans count their playoff chickens, remember this. Atlanta was picked by many to win the NFC South this season. The Falcons are only 4-10 this season, but as you will see Monday night when they play San Francisco, they still have plenty of weapons. And the Panthers have often struggled in the Georgia Dome – although this Dec. 28 game will likely see a greater influx of Carolina fans than is usual. If the Panthers win that one, they won’t play again until the weekend of Jan. 11-12 – in the playoffs, at home. By that time, only eight teams will be left in the Super Bowl chase. So this coming Sunday is, in many ways, just as important as the Saints game was.

•  It seemed like the Saints thought after awhile they were going to need to trick the Panthers to pull off a win. New Orleans had a beautifully executed onside kick that caught Carolina completely off guard. A fake field goal, on the other hand, was sniffed out by the Panthers and was unsuccessful.

•  The Panthers’ defensive backs were so much better in this game than they were in the first one they didn’t even look like the same players. Several of the six sacks sustained by Drew Brees were coverage sacks.

•  Luke Kuechly had 24 tackles and an interception and Thomas Davis made one of the best interceptions I’ve ever seen by a linebacker. Where would the Panthers defense have been Sunday without Nos. 58 and 59?

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