Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers: An eventful 12 months

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who set the Panthers’ rookie receiving records in 2014, tore his ACL during a non-contact drill at training camp on Aug. 19 and was lost for the season.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who set the Panthers’ rookie receiving records in 2014, tore his ACL during a non-contact drill at training camp on Aug. 19 and was lost for the season. AP

The Carolina Panthers have not lost a regular-season football game in more than a year, but that’s not all coach Ron Rivera has had to navigate. On and off the field, it has been an eventful 12 months. A look back:

Dec. 2, 2014: Cornerback Antoine Cason and backup linebacker Jason Williams are waived, two days after both surrendered big plays in a 31-13 loss at Minnesota. The defeat was the Panthers’ sixth in a row and dropped them to 3-8-1.

Dec. 7: Carolina racks up 497 yards and rolls to a 41-10 victory at New Orleans to snap a seven-game winless streak and win for the first time in two months.

Dec. 9: Quarterback Cam Newton fractures two bones in his lower back after he rolls his pickup truck in a one-vehicle accident two blocks from Bank of America Stadium. Newton spends a night in the hospital and misses the next game against Tampa Bay.

Dec. 28: Panthers thump the Falcons 34-3 for their fourth consecutive win and clinch the NFC South at the Georgia Dome for the second year in a row. The Panthers, despite a 7-8-1 record, earn consecutive playoff berths for the first time in their history.

Jan. 3, 2015: Panthers beat Arizona 27-16 in the wild-card round. Carolina holds the Cardinals to 78 total yards, a record low in an NFL playoff game.

Jan. 5: Ron Rivera’s south Charlotte home catches fire, forcing Rivera, wife Stephanie and other family members to evacuate in the middle of the night. The fire, caused by a faulty gas fireplace, causes $500,000 in damage.

March 10: DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers’ all-time leading rusher, is cut. Williams was unhappy during his final season in Charlotte for what he believed was the franchise’s unsympathetic response to his mother’s death in May 2014.

March 18: Greg Hardy signs with Cowboys after Panthers part ways with the Pro Bowl defensive end in wake of his domestic violence case. Hardy earned $13.1 million in 2014 for playing one game for Carolina.

June 2: Panthers sign QB Cam Newton to a five-year $103.8 million extension, the most lucrative contract in franchise history. GM Dave Gettleman says he believes Newton can lead the team to the “promised land.”

Aug. 19: Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who set the Panthers’ rookie receiving records in 2014, tears his ACL during a non-contact drill at training camp and is lost for the season.

Sept. 10: Luke Kuechly signs a five-year, $62 million extension, becoming the highest-paid inside linebacker in league history.

Oct. 18: Tight end Greg Olsen pulls in a 26-yard TD pass from Newton in the final minute to lift the Panthers to a 27-23 victory at Seattle. Carolina had lost four times to Seattle in the three previous seasons, including a divisional-round defeat in the 2014 playoffs.

Oct. 25: Panthers knock off Philadelphia 27-16 to improve to 6-0, surpassing the 2003 team for the best start in team history. The ’03 Panthers advanced to the franchise’s only Super Bowl.

Nov. 26: Playing in their first Thanksgiving Day game, the Panthers get a pair of defensive TDs to rout Dallas 33-14 for their 15th consecutive regular-season win. When New England loses three days later, Carolina (11-0) is the NFL’s last undefeated team.

Joseph Person

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