Carolina Panthers

Soggy survivors: Carolina Panthers dump Colts 29-26 in overtime

Carolina Panthers' Jonathan Stewart (28) scores a touchdown past Indianapolis Colts' Dwight Lowery (33) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium on Monday, November 2, 2015. Panthers led 10-0 in the first quarter.
Carolina Panthers' Jonathan Stewart (28) scores a touchdown past Indianapolis Colts' Dwight Lowery (33) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium on Monday, November 2, 2015. Panthers led 10-0 in the first quarter. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Sloppy. Nasty. Ugly.

And the weather was bad too.

The Carolina Panthers gave up a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter to Andrew Luck and the Colts, then got a 52-yard field goal from kicker Graham Gano to beat Indianapolis 29-26 in overtime on a rainy Monday night.

Luck’s pass intended for tight end Coby Fleener was deflected by safety Roman Harper and intercepted by linebacker Luke Kuechly at the 39.

“(After the interception), all we needed to do was pick up 5 more yards and let Graham kick the game winner,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

Earlier in overtime, Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri made a 50-yard field goal that gave the Colts a 26-23 lead before Newton drove the Panthers from their 20 to the Colts’ 23. Gano made a 42-yarder to tie it at 26.

The victory gave Carolina a 7-0 start, the best in the franchise’s 21-year history, and a 1  1/2-game lead over Atlanta in the NFC South.

But the Panthers didn’t make it easy.

A 27-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen with 14 seconds to play in the third quarter made it 17-6. Then, after Kurt Coleman’s interception of Andrew Luck, an 8-yard Newton touchdown pass to Philly Brown in the corner of the end zone made it 23-6, giving some breathing room.

Gano’s missed extra point meant the Panthers would need all of it.

Two fourth-quarter touchdown passes by Luck, an 18-yarder to Andre Johnson and an 8-yarder to Fleener made it 23-20 with 2:27 to play.

A three-and-out by Carolina gave Indianapolis the ball back at their 40 with 2:02 to play, down 23-20.

Three straight incompletions brought up fourth and 10, but Luck found Griff Whelen for 12 yards, a catch that withstood a booth review.

After a breakup of a deep pass to T.Y. Hilton by Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, another completion to Whelen moved the ball to the Carolina 37.

Four completions and two Luck scrambles moved the ball from there to the Panthers’ 6 with seven seconds to play. After Kuechly’s near interception on third down, Vinatieri’s 24-yard field goal sent the game to overtime.

Three who mattered

Josh Norman: Much has been made of Norman’s play in this contract year, and he shadowed T.Y. Hilton Monday and held the Colts’ leading receiver – 37 catches for 606 yards coming in – without a catch until there were less than four minutes remaining. Shutdown, indeed.

Greg Olsen: An offensive pass interference penalty and an uncharacteristic drop and holding penalty aside, Olsen made a huge play on Newton’s 27-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the third quarter and a one-handed catch for a first down in overtime.

Kurt Coleman: The Panthers safety didn’t make the most tackles, but he made a big one on third down in each half. He also intercepted a Luck pass in the fourth quarter.

Observations

▪  Protesters hanging from the the upper deck got rappelling gear into the stadium – presumably in a clear bag no bigger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches.

[UPDATE: 4 arrested after protesters rappel from BofA Stadium during Panthers game.]

▪  A third-quarter pass from an escaping Newton to Tolbert gained 40 – and forced a Panthers timeout, presumably to get Tolbert oxygen. Kidding.

▪  The rain varied between mist and deluge, but the field never got as sloppy as the ball handling. The two teams combined for seven turnovers.

▪  All 74,136 tickets were distributed. The crowd – loud and largely present to the end – was not bad considering the weather.

Worth mentioning

▪  Two Colts turnovers helped the Panthers to a 10-0 lead before the game was eight minutes old. A fumbled snap on the Colts second play the Panthers could move only three yards before Gano’s 39-yard field goal. Indianapolis turned the ball over again when Luck was intercepted by Charles Tillman three plays later. Aided by a Newton first-down run on fourth and 1, the Panthers got a 3-yard touchdown run from Jonathan Stewart – also on fourth down – to make it 10-0.

▪  Ted Ginn Jr. dropped what almost certainly would have been a game-winning touchdown in overtime.

▪  Vinatieri kicked two field goals in a deluge in the first half, a 47-yarder and a 34-yarder.

▪  Newton finished 16 of 35 for 248 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Olsen had six catches for 79 yards and Jonathan Stewart ran for 82 yards on 24 carries for Carolina.

▪  The Green Bay Packers (6-1) visit Carolina Sunday at 1 p.m.

They said it

“He made some good throws, and he is who he is.” – Rivera, on Luck.

“Teddy said he would come back and make a play, and he did. He's going to make some big-time plays for us. He just didn't make that one.” – Rivera, on what Ginn told him after dropping a potential touchdown in overtime.

“Everybody is missing extra points, but guys are still making kicks. I guarantee you he wasn't even thinking about that.” – Rivera, on his confidence in Gano on the winning kick after the missed extra point.

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Michael Persinger: 704-358-5132, @mikepersinger

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